Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program (DLT)
A - Statutorily created to fund technology.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development, Rural Utilities Service (RUS)
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program is specifically designed to meet the educational and health care needs of rural America through the use of advanced telecommunications technologies. 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:
(1) Eligible equipment for eligible purposes. Acquisition can be by purchase or lease. If leased, the cost of the lease during the three year life of the grant is eligible. The following are examples of eligible equipment. This list is not exhaustive. Neither does it convey blanket eligibility. Tip: a computer is not automatically eligible. It must be used for an eligible purpose.
- Computer hardware and software
- Audio and video equipment
- Computer network components
- Terminal equipment
- Data terminal equipment
- Interactive audio/video equipment
- Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or OEM authorized extended warranties on eligible equipment up to the 3 year life of the grant
- Inside wiring
(2) First-time acquisition of 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.
(3) Technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment (TA&I), including any related software. The costs for this category cannot exceed 10% of the grant amount requested or 10% of the eligible matching funds calculated separately.
Remember also that the purpose of the DLT Grant program is to deliver education or medicine between remote sites via telecommunications, not simply to furnish educational or medical technology. For example, applicants will sometimes argue that all proposed equipment is eligible because it is used 100% of the time to provide medical services. This is not always true. To be eligible, it must be providing medical services that meet the grant definition of telemedicine, i.e., via telecommunications between remote sites, not within one facility.
None of the following purposes are eligible:
- Salaries, wages, or employee benefits to medical or educational personnel;
- Salaries or administrative expenses of the applicant or the project including overhead costs. Administrative expenses of the applicant include the normal costs of operation;
- Acquiring, installing, or constructing telecommunications transmission facilities. DLT projects are intended to deliver education or medicine between remote sites via telecommunications, but they do not cover the transmissions facilities themselves. DLT eligible purposes end at the terminal equipment that connects to a transmission facility;
- Recurring or operating project expenses or costs such as fees for telecommunications, Internet, electric service, rent, or tuition;
- Medical equipment not having telemedicine as its principal and essential function;
- Purchasing equipment that will be owned by a local exchange carrier or another telecommunications service provider unless that service provider is the applicant.
- Duplicating facilities already in place which provide distance learning or telemedicine services;
- Reimbursing your organization or others for costs incurred prior to the date we received the completed application.
- DLT application preparation costs;
- Projects that only provide links between people located at the same physical facility. This includes projects where several facilities are involved, but all the links are within each facility. For projects that do not meet the DLT Grant Program definition of distance learning or telemedicine, organizations should consider the DLT Loan or the Combo Grant/Loan Program in the event these Loan Programs are funded.
- Site development including destruction or alteration of buildings. Equipment specific modifications needed for the project to work such as soundproofing and lighting for a video conferencing room are eligible, although modern video-conferencing equipment does not require extensive room modifications.
- Purchasing land or buildings or for building construction;
- Projects located in areas covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act;
- Any other purposes not specifically contained in 7 CFR 1703.121;
- Any other purpose that the Administrator has not specifically approved;
- Grant funds shall not be used to finance a project, in part, when success of the project is dependent upon the receipt of additional financial assistance or is dependent upon the receipt of other funding that is not assured.
History of Funding
In FY12, 52 projects that applied in FY11 received $14 million in slate-down funding awards. The projects included 19 distance learning projects, 12 telemedicine projects and one combined project.
The DLT Grant Program is a competitive program. Applications are scored in objective and subjective categories. Objective criteria are statistical in nature and evaluated by comparing statistics on numerical data. Decisions made from subjective criteria are rendered by a judgment, an informed opinion based on various factors, including experience, knowledge and statistical comparisons.
- Rural Area (Rurality): Up to 45 Points
- Economic Need (NSLP): Up to 35 Points
- Matching Funds (Leveraging): Up to 35 Points
- Additional NSLP: Up to 10 Points
- Needs for Services and Project Benefits (Needs & Benefits): Up to 45 Points
- Innovativeness: Up to 15 Points
- Cost Effectiveness: Up to 35 Points
To be eligible for a grant, your organization must:
- Be legally organized as an incorporated organization or partnership; an Indian tribe or tribal organization; a state or local unit of government; a consortium; or other legal entity, including a private corporation organized on a for profit or not-for profit basis with the legal capacity to contract with the United States Government. Many applicants for DLT Grants are informal consortia. This means that they are an assemblage of individual legal entities, such as school districts, that are working together specifically for the purpose of applying for a grant. However, as a group they do not have a separate legal existence.
- Either operate a rural community facility directly, or deliver distance learning or telemedicine services to another organization that operates a rural community facility.
- Currently deliver or propose to deliver distance learning or telemedicine services for the term of the grant. Competitive proposals demonstrate an ability to sustain a project beyond the three-year term of the grant. To receive a grant, the purposes must meet the grant definition of distance learning and/or telemedicine. The DLT program is focused on financing projects that will be sustainable. Planning studies, research projects, and short-term demonstration projects will not be considered. Equipment vendors, system integrators, and other businesses whose purpose in the proposal is to sell equipment or technological services to support applicants cannot themselves be applicants or affiliates of the applicant.
Note: Electric or telecommunications borrowers financed through the Utilities Programs of Rural Development are not eligible for grants, but are eligible for loans.
The deadline for applications was August 12, 2013. Similar deadlines are anticipated annually.
In FY13, approximately $17 million will be made available under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program. The minimum award is $50,000. The maximum award is $500,000. The DLT program requires a minimum match of 15%. Higher matches receive more points. There are special matching provisions for American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
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