United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a significant expansion in high-speed Internet access, health care and education services for millions of rural Americans across the country. the country.
“For too long, the ‘digital divide’ has left too many people living in rural communities behind: unable to compete in the global economy and unable to access the services and resources all Americans need,” he said. Vilsack said. âAs we build back better than before, the actions I am announcing today will go a long way to ensuring that people who live or work in rural areas can enjoy the benefits of broadband, including access to healthcare. healthcare, educational opportunities and the global market. Rural populations, businesses and communities need reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access in order to fully participate in modern society.
and the modern economy.
Context: ReConnect program
Secretary Vilsack spoke about USDA’s commitment to helping rural Americans gain better access to broadband and health care during a visit to the newly renovated emergency department at Hammond Henry Hospital. The project was funded in part by a loan from the USDA.
He announced that on November 24, USDA would begin accepting requests for loans and grants of up to $ 1.15 billion to expand broadband availability in rural areas. USDA makes funding available through the ReConnect program.
To be eligible for ReConnect program funding, an applicant must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload), and commit to building facilities capable to provide broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps (upload and download) to each location within its proposed service area. In making funding decisions, USDA will prioritize projects that will serve low-density rural areas with locations without Internet access services at speeds of at least 25 Mbps (download) and 3 Mbps.
(Download). In making funding decisions, USDA will also take into account, among other things, the economic needs of the community to be served; the extent to which a provider will offer affordable service options; a project’s commitment to strict labor standards; and whether a project serves tribal lands or is submitted by a local government, tribal government, non-profit organization or cooperative.
The USDA has simplified the application process and significantly expanded the program. For example, ReConnect will now offer 100 percent grants for certain projects on tribal lands and in socially vulnerable communities.
The Ministry plans to make available up to $ 200 million in ReConnect program loans, up to $ 250 million in loan / grant combinations, up to $ 350 million in grants with a 25% matching requirement, and up to $ 350 million in grants with no matching requirement for projects in tribal and socially vulnerable communities.
Background: Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants Vilsack also announced a $ 50 million investment in 105 rural distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. These awards are funded by the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. This program makes it possible to finance the distance
learning and telemedicine services in rural areas to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable.
-The Big Island Substance Abuse Council received $ 124,730 to fund the Rural Wellness Hubs program that mobilizes services in rural areas that provide in-person and telehealth services, through developing linkages between needs, services and community resources. This program also offers in-person and telehealth case management, as well as behavioral health services. The estimated population affected by this project is 29,000 people.
For more information on the next ReConnect program funding opportunity, see the Federal Register on October 22, 2021. Once the application window opens, applications should be submitted through the USDA Rural Development online application system. on the ReConnect web page. All the documents required to complete an application are included in the online system.
To learn more about ReConnect eligibility, technical support, and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
Under the Biden-Harris administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This aid supports the improvement of infrastructure; Business development; lodging; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural, tribal and very poor areas. For more information visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you would like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.