The competitive grants, to be awarded in fiscal year 2017, are made available through the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program,(www.rd.usda.gov) which provides funds to improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas.
The USDA posted an announcement about the available grants in the May 16 Federal Register.(www.gpo.gov)
According to that announcement, eligible applicants — specifically, incorporated organizations or partnerships; other legal entities, including private for-profit or nonprofit corporations; state and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and consortia comprising these eligible entities — have until July 17 to submit applications for competitive grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.
The announcement also notes that, “Grant applicants must demonstrate matching contributions, in cash or in kind (new, nondepreciated items), of at least 15 percent of the total amount of financial assistance requested.” Another stipulation is that end-user sites must be located in communities with populations of no more than 20,000 people.
Grant money may be used to fund telecommunications-enabled information, audio and video equipment, and other advanced technologies that will help push educational and medical applications into these rural areas. The funds may also be used for the acquisition of instructional programming that is considered a capital asset or to procure technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment.
The ultimate goal of the grants, says the Federal Register announcement, is “to benefit end users in rural areas, who are often not in the same location as the source of the educational or health care service.”
Interested parties can access an online application guide(www.rd.usda.gov) that offers details on the program, including a complete breakdown of eligibility criteria and an overview of the grant review process, as well as key forms and worksheets.
Additionally, on May 31 from 1-3 p.m. EDT and again on June 15 from 2-4 p.m. EDT, the Rural Utilities Service will host webinars about the 2017 DLT Grant Program.(www.rd.usda.gov)
The webinars will focus on providing information about eligibility and regulatory requirements of the program and will walk participants through the steps that will facilitate submission of a grant application that is most likely to be accepted.