Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that there will be a regulation improvement for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The announcement will expand eligibility for and simplify the administration of the grant. Organizations holding USDA rural telecommunications or electric program loans are now able to apply for these DLT grants under these rewritten regulations.
The DLT program assists rural communities to connect to each other as well as worldwide, despite the effects of remoteness and low population density. An example from USDA’s website, says this program can link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another. Eligible applicants include those that provide education or healthcare through telecommunications for a rural community such a state and local government entities, tribal entities, non-profits, and for-profit businesses, to name a few.
The grants can now be used to either construct or improve broadband transmission facilities. These changes will be able to more broadly market the program through USDA and give possible customers more time to apply for federal support for the rural e-connectivity projects. This will allow a process that is more customer-friendly by easing the access to announcements of funding and solicitations for applications.
All program changes were effective on December 27, 2017, making this regulation improvement one of 14 regulations USDA Rural Development has identified for revision since January of last year. These improvements to the DLT grant program address Secretary Perdue’s Strategic Goal #1, which is to create an efficient and effective, customer-focused USDA. Anne Hazlett says, “With these reforms, we’re also making progress in expanding the health and education benefits of e-connectivity for rural communities.