Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced that USDA is investing in e-connectivity which will provide virtual access to job training, educational, and health care opportunities for rural communities.
“Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in creating rural prosperity,” Hazlett said. “Connecting rural Americans to quality education and health care services is an innovative and important tool in our efforts to facilitate economic growth, job creation and quality of life in rural America.”
USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. This program invests in equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to educational and health care services. These vital services are part of the foundation of a high quality of life and enable communities to overcome the effects of remoteness and low population density by connecting them to the rest of the world through high-speed internet.
The grants are supporting projects based in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Several recipients will use the grants to help address two of the nation’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling. USDA recognizes that modernizing healthcare access for such recovery resources is vital to addressing rural prosperity.
Here are the projects USDA is supporting this year in South Carolina:
Florence-Darlington Technical College is receiving a $184,785 grant to expand and enhance its distance learning network to deliver adult education and programs for students in alternative schools. FDTC is in Florence in the Pee Dee region. The network will serve more than 7,600 students at 16 end-user sites in Florence, Marion and Darlington counties.
Beaufort County School District is receiving a $419,510 grant to purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive distance learning services. The project will benefit 12 schools by providing mobile distance learning carts containing video conferencing equipment. The equipment will enable the schools to share teachers, combine resources and bring new educational services and opportunities to students and faculty. It also will allow high school students to connect with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, where they will take vocational and dual enrollment courses.
Northeastern Technical College is receiving a $500,000 grant that will provide virtual connections to classrooms in Dillon, Lake View and Latta. The hubs and end-user sites are in Chesterfield and Dillon counties. The project will allow schools to connect to other counties, schools, colleges and organizations to bring needed educational content to teachers and students. It will expand educational opportunities to provide students with core courses, electives, dual credit courses and advanced placement courses. It also will provide access to community meetings, continuing education and training for first responders.
Central Carolina Technical College is receiving a $365,457 grant that will establish a distance learning network between its main campus in Sumter and campuses in Manning, Bishopville and Camden. The project will help expand access to education, technology and health-related services for rural residents in Clarendon, Lee and Kershaw counties. Residents of these extremely rural areas have pervasive health concerns such as strokes, diabetes and obesity, limited public services and little access to technology. These areas also are costly to serve, are economically distressed and have low secondary to post-secondary enrollment. To better serve these remote communities, Central Carolina Technical College will deliver distance learning solutions through video endpoints and network equipment at its campuses.
Northeastern Technical College is receiving a $415,526 grant that will create a distance learning network in Marlboro and Chesterfield counties. Northeastern Technical College campuses at Bennettsville and Pageland will be the hub/end-user sites. High schools at Pageland, Chesterfield, McBee and Cheraw will be end-user sites. Expanded course offerings will include core courses, dual-credit courses and advanced placement courses. The learning network will also provide a community resource for workforce development, job training, community meetings and continuing education for first responders. Courses in advanced manufacturing also will be offered, which will enhance job opportunities in local manufacturing.
Little River Medical Center, Inc. is receiving a $418,184 grant to help establish a telemedicine network for a school-based primary care initiative in Horry County elementary schools. The project will provide much-needed behavioral health in the schools and the project communities, as well as primary care. The project will link four sites with the Medical Center at the University of South Carolina. It will utilize telemedicine and video conferencing to share patient caseloads within the network, and provide increased access to medical services via home and site-to-site visits. The project will improve health outcomes for more than 4,000 rural students, and will increase access to behavioral health and other specialists for more than 78,000 residents. It also will enable the four sites to serve more patients per day and reach hundreds of rural patients who are homebound due to health or economic constraints.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/sc.