WASHINGTON, February 25, 2021 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that it invest $ 42.3 million to help rural residents access health care and educational opportunities (PDF, 255 KB). Rural areas experience higher infection and death rates from COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health. Health Insurance. The $ 42.3 million in scholarships includes $ 24 million paid under the CARES Law. In total, these investments will benefit 5 million rural people.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires a historic federal response. These investments from the Biden administration will help millions of people living in rural areas access health care and education opportunities that could change and save lives, ”Agriculture Secretary Tom said. Vilsack. “USDA is helping rural America to rebuild better by using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. As healthcare and education increasingly shift to online platforms, now is the time to make historic investments in rural America to improve the quality of life for decades to come. “

A recent report (PDF, 214 KB) from the Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis of the Rural Policy Research Institute found that infection and death rates in rural America from COVID-19 are 13.4 higher % to those in urban areas. A recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service, USDA ERS – Rural residents appear to be more vulnerable to serious infections or deaths from COVID-19 coronavirus, highlighted the challenges facing rural Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic in even more detail. Due to a confluence of factors including higher percentages of underlying conditions, lack of health insurance, and lower access to medical facilities / care than their urban counterparts, ERS analysts found that rural Americans suffer more serious illness or death from COVID-19.

Rural residents appear to be more vulnerable to severe infections or deaths from COVID-19 coronavirus



Underlying health problems (20 to 84 years old)



Seniors population scale



No health insurance (25 to 64)



Distance to county from an intensive care hospital



The above table is taken from the USDA ERS report for January 2021: Rural residents appear to be more vulnerable to severe infections or deaths from COVID-19 coronavirus


USDA funds 86 projects through the Distance education and telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program helps rural education and health entities to reach out to students, patients and outside expertise remotely. These capabilities make world-class education and healthcare opportunities accessible in rural communities. The ability to utilize telehealth resources is critical, especially now during a global pandemic.

USDA today announced investments in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska , New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands .

Here are some examples of projects announced today:

  • In Georgia, the Morehouse School of Medicine Inc. will use a grant of $ 997,194 to purchase interactive telecommunications, distance education and telemedicine equipment. The equipment will be installed at service centers in two counties in west-central Georgia. It will be used to provide a variety of health services to residents of underserved rural areas in nine counties across the state. These services include mental health and addiction treatment and counseling; clinical services; referrals for specialist care; health education and career development in schools; and the diagnosis, treatment and management of chronic diseases, including COVID-19.
  • The Fall Mountain Regional School District in New Hampshire receives a grant of $ 995,158. It will provide distance learning services in Cheshire and Sullivan counties. Distance learning will allow schools to share educational resources, offer cultural literacy and career development programs to students, and provide opportunities for professional development. The grant will also help the district respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Oklahoma’s Okmulgee Public School District is receiving a grant of $ 756,760 to provide distance learning services in Creek and Okmulgee counties. Schools will expand the course offering and provide opportunities for professional development. Schools will use video conferencing and interactive display panels to expand the curriculum, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes. The equipment provided by this grant will help schools respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing students to participate in virtual outings and join home classes.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA State Bureau of Rural Development.

In January, President Biden called on all parts of the federal government to provide resources to contain the coronavirus pandemic. USDA Responds to President’s Call to Action. To date, more than 350 USDA staff have deployed to help set up vaccination sites, for example. In addition to staff, USDA provides its facilities, cold chain infrastructure, public health experts, disaster response specialists, and its footprint in rural and tribal communities across the country. USDA’s commitment to controlling the pandemic extends to our own staff and facilities, with masking and physical distancing requirements across USDA, a commitment to provide PPE to our frontline workers and working with states to prioritize vaccinations for our workforce. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus. The USDA also encourages those seeking health insurance to visit HealthCare.gov now until May 15th due to a special registration period. If you haven’t recently been insured due to job loss or between jobs, find a plan at HealthCare.gov and keep it for as long as you need.

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USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This aid supports the improvement of infrastructure; Business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural areas. For more information visit www.rd.usda.gov.

The USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, the USDA is transforming the American food system with a greater emphasis on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to safe and nutritious food in all communities, creating new markets and sources of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in rural America, and committing promoting fairness across the department by removing systemic barriers and creating a workforce that is more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.


The USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.