Have you heard about the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program? In 2023 the U.S. Congress appropriated $60 million to DLT for use by organizations that provide education and healthcare services to communities in rural areas. According to the USDA, this funding is provided to help rural communities connect with each other and beyond as they seek to overcome the impacts of their remote locations and low populations.

To help you learn more about the USDA’s DLT program, you’re invited to watch our recent webinar on Empowering Rural Communities through Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) where we explore the opportunities DLT holds for your organization.

“I wrote my first DLT application in 1998 to build distance learning capabilities in the rural area where I live. In the early 2000s, our family was directly impacted by the life-saving power of telemedicine made possible by DLT. It is a program that is very near and dear to my heart.”

—Jen Messinger, Public Funding Advisor

How the DLT program works for you

DLT enhances education services by:

  • Creating access to dual enrollment or early college curriculum.
  • Giving university or college educators the ability to reach their students at remote campuses.
  • Allowing school districts to collaborate with each other, share instructors, and increase student access to learning opportunities.

DLT enhances healthcare services in rural areas by:

  • Connecting rural hospitals to urbanized specialists in times of crisis.
  • Providing patients access to specialists from their location.
  • Enhancing the ability for healthcare professionals to access training and education specific to their job.
  • Ensuring remote patients have access to quality care.

How do you know if you’re project is a good fit for DLT?

If you have an upcoming project, there are two key questions you can ask to see if the DLT program might be the right choice for you:

  • First, is the project in a rural area?
  • Second, is there a high level of poverty?

DLT uses census data to assess rurality and poverty to ensure project benefits are going to rural areas. Additionally, the USDA assigns special considerations to geographies. Each year, the special considerations change, but in the past Tribal lands, Enterprise Zones, STEM, and Opioid Crisis Response have been areas of special consideration. The USDA hasn’t published 2024 guidance yet. When they do, you should be aware that it will include details on special considerations for 2024.

In general, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your journey, including:

  • Determine if your project is going to focus on education or healthcare (the USDA requires applicants to select a primary area of focus).
  • Talk to your partners about the disparities they are facing when delivering (or receiving) services in rural areas.
  • Review the DLT guidance and workbook to delegate action items with your team.
  • Identify the communities where you need to provide services.
  • Determine what technology you need to make the project and go for it.

Funding amount and timing

The DLT funds projects between $50,000 and $1,000,000. Applicants need to provide a 15% match. And it’s never too early to start preparing. In fact, now is the time to visit the USDA DLT site to learn about the application process, see past funded projects, and monitor the program for upcoming announcements. Although, as of today’s date, the program is closed it will have an application window in 2024.

Remember, we’re here to help!

We urge you to take advantage of our team’s public funding experts so you can maximize your opportunities. The Cisco Public Funding Office has years of experience in consulting with organizations that need to pursue grants for technology. It’s easy to connect with us and we’ll be glad to show you how we can support with DLT and other grants. And be sure to watch Empowering Rural Communities through Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) today!

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Jen Messinger

Public Funding Advisor

US Public Sector