WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant program, which provides increased access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas.

“This program provides people who live and work in rural areas with better access to a variety of educational and health care services,” Vilsack said. “Because of the DLT program, students in rural areas can take advanced placement classes. Residents can have access to specialized medical services not typically available in rural communities.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “This valuable USDA Rural Development grant provides Maine’s rural healthcare and schools with an important opportunity to expand quality health services and education to Maine’s rural areas that are often remote, underserved, or have less access to these critical resources.”

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency, is making $19 million available for FY 2015. The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program finances telecommunications equipment, computer networks and advanced technologies for use by students, teachers, medical professionals and rural residents. Minimum grant amounts are $50,000; maximum amounts are $500,000 for FY 2015.

Maine organizations have had great success with this program in the past, with Maine ranking number one in either dollars invested or number of projects for 7 of the last 8 years. Under last year’s round of funding, Maine was number one in the nation in terms of dollars invested, with $2,587,919 awarded year for six projects in Maine.

Since 2009, USDA has provided more than $182 million to expand access to learning at nearly 4,700 rural educational facilities and to improve delivery of medical care at more than 2,500 rural health facilities.

Details of the DLT funding are on Page 29602 of the May 22 Federal Register. The application deadline is July 6.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.

USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

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