USDA grant seeks applicants to fund technology projects in rural communities

Rural communities are often underserved and unable to access technology for critical services and information. Meanwhile, organizations struggle when trying to expand their reach and capacity into these rural areas. Thankfully, interactive technology like the Zoom platform can bridge this gap, and with the help of a USDA grant program, educational, governmental, and healthcare organizations can apply for funding to use Zoom solutions to support rural communities in need. 

The USDA Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant is a unique program that covers the capital expenditures needed to facilitate live, interactive distance-learning and/or telemedicine services to USDA rural areas – or communities with fewer than 20,000 people. 

It allows rural K-12 school districts, higher education organizations, tribal entities, community health centers, hospital systems, clinics, government agencies, and many other types of organizations, the opportunity to leverage technology – primarily video conferencing and collaboration technology – to promote access to these vital services and opportunities. This grant also allows the same organizations in urban and suburban areas to expand their reach and offer their resources to the benefit of rural communities. It’s our hope at Zoom that education institutions can apply for this grant and use Zoom solutions to enhance the causes that will impact the most.  

Continuing education for all ages

For Southeastern Community College — a public community college in Iowa with two campuses — learning is their passion. They’re dedicated to lifelong learning and proudly support all students in pursuit of their career and education goals. A vital part of the region since 1920, Southeastern Community College leveraged the RUS DLT grant 100 years later to establish distance learning programs in four counties. This allows students in both higher education and K-12 dual enrollment programs to access Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) classes, college readiness and professional development courses, workforce development, certification programs, and continuous education. The equipment afforded through the RUS-DLT grant will also provide students with access to health and substance abuse prevention education. 

Empower others to learn through technology

Though this grant revolves around the capital expenditures of technology purchases, it’s designed to fund programs and projects that provide access via technology. Here are some common use cases for previously funded RUS-DLT projects.

Higher education

  • Dual enrollment – expand your dual enrollment program by delivering courses via interactive video conferencing.
  • Campus-to-campus – connect satellite campuses to increase course offering, bridge academic programs, or provide workforce development.
  • Community education – connect with anchor institutions, including libraries and community centers, to provide access to higher education for adult learners.
  • Workforce development – connect with remote professionals to increase their employability. For example, connect with rural hospitals to provide an RN-to-BSN program for nurses or connect with rural high schools and provide graduate programs in education to their teaching staff.

 K-12 primary and secondary education

  • Dual enrollment – connect to colleges and universities for real-time, interactive courses.
  • School-to-school collaboration – connect with other K-12s to share teachers and courses.
  • Professional development – access remote training and reduce the costs of professional development.
  • Vocational programs – connect to remote CTE and vocational programming.
  • School-based telehealth – connect with medical and mental health professionals.
  • Remote specialists – improve special education services, access speech therapy, etc.

Healthcare

  • Medical centers to rural hospitals and clinics – increase access to primary and specialty care in rural hospitals and clinics.
  • Clinic-to-clinic or hospital-to-hospital – share doctors, dentists, nurses, or allied health professionals, or share CMEs, wellness, and prevention programs.
  • Mental health and substance abuse clinics – deliver behavioral health and/or substance use disorder treatment, education, counseling, etc.
  • School-based health – connect with K-12 schools to provide school-based health care services.
  • Continuing medical education – connect with providers of CMEs to eliminate the time rural healthcare workers spend traveling for CMEs.

State and local government

  • Educational programming – connect with educational providers, either at institutions of higher education or instructors located at other facilities
  • Clinical care – provide specialty care, primary care, or chronic condition and disease management through telemedicine consults
  • Mental health care – provide access to therapy, counseling, and psychiatric care
  • Substance abuse services – provide therapy, counseling, and education
  • Training for staff/workforce development – provide access to training and education programs for personnel. 

How to make the RUS-DLT grant work for you

With so many opportunities, we hope you can find a project or program that matches your needs. Let’s explore how to use those winning grant dollars. The following list is not exhaustive, nor are the listed items automatically eligible. An applicant will need to justify the main use of this equipment as technology that’s designed to deliver education or medical care to residents of rural locations.  

Examples of provisionally eligible budget items:

  • Video license packages (three-year prepaid, cap ex … no subscriptions)
  • Video endpoints (camera/audio bars), video codecs, etc.
  • Cameras, audio systems, controllers
  • Peripherals used to share and display content (scopes, monitors, displays, etc)
  • Network components needed to support the synchronous video
  • Wireless components/access points
  • Personal devices (tablets, laptops)
  • Cyber security components 
  • Three-year hardware replacement contracts
  • Training (up to 10% of the budget)

Make a difference today 

If you’re interested in discussing how your organization could benefit or explore whether your initiatives are eligible for this program, please contact us at grants@zoom.us.  

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