Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is awarding grants for broadband projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas in 35 states.
“Broadband technology helps provide career opportunities and deliver critical medical services to rural residents,” Hazlett said. “It allows rural hospitals to better diagnose and treat patients. It helps treat people who are struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders. It also helps bring jobs to rural areas.”
USDA Rural Development State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said, “The $1.3 million in vital funding announced today is the exactly the type of investment in broadband infrastructure that rural Maine communities need. Providing rural schools and hospitals with state-of-the-art technology gives Maine students and healthcare providers the tools needed to help them succeed.”
USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. This program funds equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to advanced learning and specialized medical services.
The grants are supporting projects in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Several recipients will use the grants to help address two of the nation’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling.
In Maine, USDA Rural Development is investing four Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants totaling $1,343,036:
- School Union 76 and Isle Au Haut School has been selected to receive a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant in the amount of $441,189. The funds will help create a distance learning network linking two hubs in Belfast with 30 other hub/end-user sites in Waldo, Sagadahoc, Hancock, Knox, Cumberland and Washington counties and the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe. The project will include video conferencing equipment that will allow for expanded opportunities for real-time, interactive education. The project will help students strive for higher academic achievement, complete post-secondary educations, and it will enhance professional development opportunities for teaching.
- MaineHealth has been selected to receive a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant in the amount of $274,092. Funds will be used to provide a three-component telehealth network, including EMS enhanced communications, nursery care support, transfer decision support, and post-discharge care to home-based patients. Ten area hospitals in Franklin, Oxford, Lincoln, Kennebec, Knox and Waldo counties in Maine, and a hospital in Carroll County, N.H., will be hub/end-user sites and will connect to 13 ambulance companies throughout the area. The project includes EMS enhanced communications that will connect rural ambulances to hospital emergency departments. Also, the post-discharge element of the project will provide comprehensive home-based medical services for infants and adults who have been discharged, in order to provide post-hospital care and reduce re-admissions.
- Sanford School Department has been selected to receive a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant in the amount of $495,541. Funds will be used to purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive distance learning services. The project will benefit three hubs and 13 end-user sites in 14 communities. Computer servers, video conferencing equipment, software and networking components will be provided to allow the schools to strengthen curricula, particularly that related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, and to promote cross-cultural learning through history and the arts.
- New England Music Camp Association has been selected to receive a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant in the amount of $132,214. Funds will equip five schools in central Maine with the technology to provide rural Maine communities with music and performing arts education as well as a broader range of cultural opportunities. The region faces challenges such as rural isolation, unemployment and poverty. This project is designed to mitigate these challenges by providing exposure to a variety of academic and cultural opportunities. This technology will provide a content-rich educational model to students and professional development opportunities for instructors.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 54 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rd.usda.gov/me.