WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for grants to help increase access to education, training and health care resources in rural communitie, Donald “DJ” LaVoy, USDA deputy undersecretary for rural development, announced Wednesday.

The USDA is making $71.7 million in grants available under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program.

The program helps rural communities use telecommunications-based audio and video equipment to connect teachers, students, medical providers and rural residents with each other and the world.

Applicants in rural areas of 20,000 people or fewer who provide education or health care services through telecommunications facilities are eligible to apply. Applications will be scored, reviewed and selected on a competitive basis.

Applications must be submitted to the applicant’s nearest USDA office or electronically via by April 10. For more information, visit For more information in Nebraska, contact Roger Meeks at 402-416-4936 or

Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

• Achieving e-connectivity for rural America

• Developing the rural economy

• Harnessing technological innovation

• Supporting a rural workforce

• Improving quality of life

The USDA encourages applications for projects located in rural opportunity zones. Localities qualify as opportunity zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and that nomination has been certified by the secretary of the U.S. Treasury via his delegation of authority to the Internal Revenue Service.

USDA also encourages applications that will support the administration’s goal to combat substance use disorder, including opioid misuse, in high-risk rural communities by strengthening the capacity to address prevention, treatment and recovery.

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