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Courtney Statement on CARES ACT Grants for Rural Communities in Connecticut to Apply for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Equipment

April 16, 2020
Press Release

NORWICH, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) released the following statement today following the announcement of a new, second window for rural communities in eastern Connecticut and across the country to apply for federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. The new application window makes available up to $25 million in new funding authorized by the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) which Rep. Courtney voted to pass on March 26, and is meant to assist rural communities in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA has announced that the additional second filing window is open from now until July 13, 2020. In 2018, Congress and USDA first created this program, which Rep. Courtney promoted at a community forum in Tolland. That initial phase of grants expired.

“These new federal dollars were authorized specifically to help rural communities get the resources they need to stay connected, stay healthy, and to keep the edge in the fight against COVID-19,” said Congressman Courtney. “There is a great need for these dollars here in eastern Connecticut, especially in areas like Windham County, and my office is here to be a resource for absolutely anyone interested in applying. This opportunity is especially useful given recent changes in Connecticut HUSKY reimbursement policy that allow HUSKY patients to access more services, especially behavioral health, through telemedicine. Not only will this help reduce transmission of COVID-19, it will also help connect more patients to needed care in the long-term.”

The USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program is uniquely suited for rural communities, including many in eastern Connecticut and across Windham County. The program helps overcome remoteness and low population density by providing funding to for communities to utilize telecommunications in a variety of ways. For example, this program can provide the resources needed to link students to teachers, and medical service providers to patients, all from remote distances. The USDA new application window closes on July 13, 2020 and makes available up to $25 million in new funding received from the bipartisan CARES Act specifically to help rural communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 through Distance Learning and Telemedicine projects. Click here for more information.

On March 13, Rep. Courtney released a statement following the Connecticut Department of Social Services’ announcement that Connecticut’s Medicaid and CHIP programs, known as HUSKY, will begin reimbursement for services provided to patients via telemedicine. Courtney had previously encouraged the Department to reimburse health providers for telemedicine services provided to HUSKY recipients, especially for behavioral health. In September of 2018, he wrote to then Connecticut Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby, stating that “Connecticut is the only state in the nation where Medicaid recipients cannot access telehealth services, including telemental health, and we encourage the Department of Social Services to address this unnecessary barrier to care by amending the state plan.”

Click here to read the full letter.