The 2016 USDA Rural Development Distance Learning & Telemedicine (DLT) Grant was announced this morning in the Federal Register! Applications are due by March 14.
The DLT Grant Program awards $50,000 - $500,000 for rural providers to support the acquisition of telemedicine equipment and other capital assets (salaries and administrative expenses are not eligible).  The application includes several objective and subjective components to consider:
  • Rurality (up to 45 points) - Determined by 2010 Census numbers - the final score is an average of all scores for the communities with end user sites. Areas of 5,000 or fewer inhabitants (not included in the boundaries of cities, villages, or boroughs) score the maximum points and areas with more than 20,000 inhabitants score zero points. Urban hub sites are not counted in the score if they receive no end user benefits (see application to learn more). A minimum of 20 points is required to be considered.
  • Economic Need (up to 35 points) - Measured by the percentage of students eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) obtained from the appropriate state or local administrator. The score is based on an average percentage of all end user areas, where 75% eligibility or more receives maximum points and less than 25% eligibility receives zero points. See the application to determine if school specific or district-wide statistics are required.
  • Additional Economic Need (up to 10 points) - Applicants whose NSLP eligibility falls below 50% may be awarded additional points if they demonstrate that the need of the area served is not accurately captured by the NSLP. These points must be requested in the application.
  • Matching Funds (up to 35 points) - At least a 15% matching fund contribution from non-Federal sources is required. See the application for descriptions of cash or eligible in-kind matching funds. Matches over 100% receive maximum points and matches of 30% or less receive zero points.
  • Needs and Benefits (up to 45 points) - Measures the extent to which the proposed project meets the need for telemedicine (or distant learning) services in rural areas, benefits derived from the proposed project, and local community involvement in the project. See the application for more specifics. This is a subjective category.
  • Innovativeness (up to 15 points) - These points are awarded for showing how the project utilizes advanced telecommunications in a unique way. This is a subjective category.
  • Cost Effectiveness (up to 35 points) - Based on the extent that cost-efficiency is considered in the delivery of services, such as the extent to which the applicant considered various technological options, buying vs. leasing equipment, use of existing networks, and more. This is a subjective category.
  • Special Consideration (15 points) - Offered to applications that contain at least one end-user site within a trust area or a tribal jurisdictional area, a "Strike Force" area, or a "Promise Zone". These applications will be awarded 15 points after including proper evidence.
Last year, 75 of the 111 eligible applications were awarded a total of $23.4 Million. When applicants were sent their scores, they were notified that an estimated minimum score of 160 was likely needed to receive an award based on the applications and available funding (this may vary year-to-year and not all applications scoring above 160 received an award last year).  Click here to review the 2015 awardees. 

We hope this brief summary provides some context to determine your eligibility for a DLT grant, but we also urge you to carefully read the complete 2016 Application Guide.


The NETRC Team.