The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program is designed to provide access to education, training, and health care resources for rural Americans. The DLT program provides financial assistance to encourage and improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas through the use of telecommunications, computer networks, and related advanced technologies that students, teachers, medical professionals, and rural residents can use. Grants may be used to fund telecommunications-enabled information, audio and video equipment, and related advanced technologies which extend educational and medical applications into rural areas. Grants are intended to benefit end users in rural areas, who are often not in the same location as the source of the educational or health care service.
The DLT program is legislatively authorized to provide three kinds of financial assistance:
- 100% grant;
- Combination Loan-Grant; and
- 100% Loan
The DLT Grant Program is primarily focused on providing equipment that operates via telecommunications to rural end-users of telemedicine and distance learning. It is useful to keep in mind that while the equipment is eligible, it does not fund the telecommunications that connects that equipment. DLT does not fund communications links between sites (wireless or wire-line) and it does not fund telecommunications or Internet connections. Grants (and eligible matching funds) can be expended only for the costs associated with the initial capital assets associated with the project.
There are three categories of eligible purposes:
- Acquiring, by lease or purchase, eligible new or non-depreciated equipment. The application must demonstrate both that the predominant purpose (50% or more of use) of every line-item in the grant and match budget meets the DLT Grant definition of distance learning and/or telemedicine. Examples of eligible equipment include:
- Computer hardware and software
- Site licenses and maintenance contracts
- Extended warranties (up to 3 years)
- Audio and video equipment (including interactive audio/video equipment)
- Computer network components
- Telecommunications terminal equipment
- Data terminal equipment
- Inside wiring
- Broadband facilities (if owned by the applicant)
- Acquiring instructional programming that is a capital asset (including the purchase or lease of instructional programming already on the market). Renewals of instructional programming are not eligible nor is classroom equipment (such as laboratory equipment). Also, expenses (such as those for tuition, fees for coursework on a per course basis, or fees for cultural events or virtual field trips) are not capital assets and therefore, are not eligible.
- Providing technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment, including any related software; developing instructional programming that is a capital asset and providing engineering or environmental studies relating to the establishment or expansion of the phase of the project to be financed with the grant. The costs for this category cannot exceed 10% of the grant amount requested.
The following purposes are considered ineligible grant purposes:
- To pay for medical or educational equipment not having telemedicine or distance learning as its essential function; including telephone systems.
- To pay for Electronic Medical Records (EMS) systems.
- To pay salaries, wages, or employee benefits to medical or educational personnel;
- To pay for the salaries or administrative expenses of the applicant or the project;
- To purchase equipment that will be owned by the local exchange carrier or another telecommunications service provider unless that service provider is the applicant.
- To duplicate facilities providing distance learning or telemedicine services in place or to reimburse the applicant or others for costs incurred prior to RUS' receipt of the completed application;
- To pay costs of preparing the application package for financial assistance under this program;
- For projects whose sole objective is to provide links between teachers and students or between medical professionals who are located at the same facility or campus environment;
- For site development and the destruction or alteration of buildings;
- For the purchase of land, buildings, or building construction;
- For projects located in areas covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act;
- For any purpose that the Administrator has not specifically approved;
- To pay the cost of recurring or operating expenses for the project including but not limited to internet connection fees
Note: Due to the impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) virus, The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is announcing a new, one time, Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) filing window, Window 2. This additional window allows the Agency to make available up to $25 million received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). While the CARES Act requires these funds be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, the agency believes that all DLT projects already serve that purpose. As a result, while not required, applicants are encouraged to identify specific ways in which their application addresses COVID-19.
The DLT Grant Program is a competitive program. Applications are scored in objective and subjective categories.
Special Consideration Points will be awarded if the proposal addresses either of the following: