The USDA said it is investing $42.3 million to help provide 5 million rural Americans with better access to health care and educational opportunities. The investment comes through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program.
The USDA says that $24 million of the total will be provided through the CARES Act.
The USDA says that rural areas are seeing higher infection and mortality rates from COVID-19 due to a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care and lack of health insurance.
The USDA presented statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service January 2021 report entitled “Rural Residents Appear to be More Vulnerable to Serious Infection or Death from Coronavirus COVID-19″ on the imbalance between rural and urban conditions. These include underlying health conditions in the 20 to 84 year-old population (23.7% rural, 3.0% urban), older adult population (15.9% versus 4.0%) and lack of health insurance (age 25 to 64, 20.2% versus 10.5%).
“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires a historic federal response. These investments . . . will help millions of people living in rural places access health care and education opportunities that could change and save lives,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. about the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine awards. “USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”
Today’s announcement pertains to 86 projects. Today’s press release highlights several examples:
- A $997,194 grant to the Morehouse School of Medicine in George to purchase interactive telecommunications, distance learning and telemedicine equipment
- A $995,158 grant to The Fall Mountain Regional School District in New Hampshire for distance learning services in Cheshire and Sullivan counties
- A $756,760 grant to the Okmulgee Public School District in Oklahoma for distance learning services in Creek and Okmulgee counties.
In October, 2020, the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine program invested almost $72 million in 116 projects in 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.