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;
- (8) 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.
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 competitive. Applications are scored in objective and subjective categories. Objective criteria are generally straightforward indicators. Subjective criteria are comparative in the sense that the score of one application is based on comparison to other applications received that year. Applications are scored in the following categories: