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USDA Invests $42 Million in Distance Learning, Telemedicine Infrastructure

By on February 25, 2021

Two Projects in Puerto Rico have been granted $771,333

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities.

The USDA’s Rural Development mission area provides loans and grants to provide economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business developments; housing community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access.

“Rural areas are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance,” the agency said in its media release.

The $42.3 million in awards includes $24 million provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (Cares) Act. In total, these investments are expected to benefit five million rural residents.

“These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible to rural communities,” the release reads. “The ability to use telehealth resources is critical, especially now during a global pandemic.”

The USDA is funding 86 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program in 34 states and four territories, including Puerto Rico. The program helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise.

USDA’s Rural Development acting state director for Puerto Rico, Luis R. García, said that in Puerto Rico Centros Sor Isolina Ferre in Guayama and Clínica Las Americas in Guaynabo have been selected to receive grants.

  • Clínica Las Américas in Guaynabo Inc. Will use a $694,110 grant to purchase telemedicine equipment with diagnostic devices that will be placed in each end-user site. They will receive carts so that the unit may be taken to a patient if needed.
  • Centros Sor Isolina Ferre in Guayama is receiving a $77,223 grant to provide distance learning and telemedicine services to rural residents of the Jobos Ward of the Municipality of Guayama to provide educational and health services for the elderly population and to engage children ages 15-18 years with the same service as their peers in urban areas.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires an historic federal response. These investments by the Biden Administration will help millions of people living in rural places access health care and education opportunities that could change and save lives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. With the 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.”

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