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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of April 16, 2014

Title 7: Agriculture


PART 1703—RURAL DEVELOPMENT


Contents

Subparts A-B [Reserved]

Subpart C—Rural Business Incubator Program [Reserved]

§§1703.80-1703.99   [Reserved]

Subpart D—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program—General

§1703.100   Purpose.
§1703.101   Policy.
§1703.102   Definitions.
§1703.103   Applicant eligibility and allocation of funds.
§1703.104   [Reserved]
§1703.105   Processing of selected applications.
§1703.106   Disbursement of loans and grants.
§1703.107   Reporting and oversight requirements.
§1703.108   Audit requirements.
§1703.109   Grant and loan administration.
§1703.110   Changes in project objectives or scope.
§1703.111   Grant and loan termination.
§1703.112   Expedited telecommunications loans
§§1703.113-1703.119   [Reserved]

Subpart E—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program

§1703.120   [Reserved]
§1703.121   Approved purposes for grants.
§1703.122   Matching contributions.
§1703.123   Nonapproved purposes for grants.
§1703.124   Maximum and minimum grant amounts.
§1703.125   Completed application.
§1703.126   Criteria for scoring grant applications.
§1703.127   Application selection provisions.
§1703.128   Submission of applications.
§1703.129   Appeals.

Subpart F—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Combination Loan and Grant Program

§1703.130   Use of combination loan and grant.
§1703.131   Approved purposes for a combination loan and grant.
§1703.132   Nonapproved purposes for a combination loan and grant.
§1703.133   Maximum and minimum amounts.
§1703.134   Completed application.
§1703.135   Application selection provisions.
§1703.136   Submission of applications.
§1703.137   Appeals.
§§1703.138-1703.139   [Reserved]

Subpart G—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan Program

§1703.140   Use of loan funds.
§1703.141   Approved purposes for loans.
§1703.142   Nonapproved purposes for loans.
§1703.143   Maximum and minimum amounts.
§1703.144   Completed application.
§1703.145   Application selection provisions.
§1703.146   Submission of applications.
§1703.147   Appeals.

Subpart H—Deferments of RUS Loan Payments for Rural Development Projects

§1703.300   Purpose.
§1703.301   Policy.
§1703.302   Definitions and rules of construction.
§1703.303   Eligibility criteria for deferment of loan payments.
§1703.304   Restrictions on the deferment of loan payments.
§1703.305   Requirements for deferment of loan payments.
§1703.306   Limitation on funds derived from the deferment of loan payments.
§1703.307   Uses of the deferments of loan payments.
§1703.308   Amount of deferment funds available.
§1703.309   Terms of repayment of deferred loan payments.
§1703.310   Environmental considerations.
§1703.311   Application procedures for deferment of loan payments.
§1703.312   RUS review requirements.
§1703.313   Compliance with other regulations.

Authority: 7 U.S.C. 901 et seq. and 950aaa et seq.

Source: 54 FR 6870, Feb. 15, 1989, unless otherwise noted. Redesignated at 55 FR 39394, Sept. 27, 1990.

Subparts A-B [Reserved]

Subpart C—Rural Business Incubator Program [Reserved]

§§1703.80-1703.99   [Reserved]

Subpart D—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program—General

Source: 64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999, unless otherwise noted.

§1703.100   Purpose.

The purpose of the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Loan and Grant Program is to encourage and improve telemedicine services and distance learning services in rural areas through the use of telecommunications, computer networks, and related advanced technologies by students, teachers, medical professionals, and rural residents. This subpart describes the general policies for administering the DLT program. Subpart E contains the policies and procedures related to grants; subpart F contains the policies and procedures related to a combination loan and grant; and subpart G contains the policies and procedures related to loans.

§1703.101   Policy.

(a) The transmission of information is vital to the economic development, education, and health of rural Americans. To further this objective, RUS will provide financial assistance to distance learning and telemedicine projects that will improve the access of people residing in rural areas to educational, learning, training, and health care services.

(b) In providing financial assistance, RUS will give priority to rural areas that it believes have the greatest need for distance learning and telemedicine services. RUS believes that generally the need is greatest in areas that are economically challenged, costly to serve, and experiencing outward migration. This program is consistent with the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that designate telecommunications service discounts for schools, libraries, and rural health care centers. RUS will take into consideration the community's involvement in the proposed project and the applicant's ability to leverage grant funds.

(c) In administering this subpart, RUS will not favor or mandate the use of one particular technology over another.

(d) Rural institutions are encouraged to cooperate with each other, with applicants, and with end-users to promote the program being implemented under this subpart.

(e) RUS staff will make diligent efforts to inform potential applicants in rural areas of the programs being implemented under this subpart.

(f) The Administrator will provide only loans under this subpart to any entity that has received a telecommunications or electric loan under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. Telecommunications and Electric borrowers are encouraged to seek a loan under this subpart to bolster educational and health care opportunities in the rural communities they serve. A borrower receiving a loan shall:

(1) Make the loan available to entities that qualify as distance learning or telemedicine projects satisfying the requirements of this subpart, under any terms it so chooses as long as the terms are no more stringent than the terms under which it received the financial assistance.

(2) Use the loan to acquire, install, improve, or extend a distance learning or telemedicine system referred to in this subpart.

(g) The Administrator will allocate funds that are appropriated each fiscal year for the subparts E, F, and G, of this part respectively. Not more than 30 days before the end of the fiscal year, the Administrator may transfer any funds not committed to grants in the combination loan and grant program to the grant program.

(h) Financial assistance may be provided for end user sites. Financial assistance may also be provided for hubs located in rural or non-rural areas if they are necessary to provide distance learning or telemedicine services to rural residents at end user sites.

(i) The Administrator will publish, at the end of each fiscal year, a notice in the Federal Register of all applications receiving financial assistance under this subpart. Subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, (5 U.S.C. 552), applications will be available for public inspection at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC, 20250.

§1703.102   Definitions.

1996 Act means the Federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 1996.

Act means the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.).

Administrator means the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, or designee or successor.

Applicant means an eligible organization that applies for financial assistance under this subpart.

Approved purposes means project purposes for which grant, loan, or combination loan and grant financial assistance may be expended.

Champion community means any community that submitted a valid application to become a USDA Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) area, that met the requirements to be designated an EZ/EC area, but not chosen because their score was not high enough to be selected.

Combination loan and grant means a grant in combination with a loan made under the DLT program.

Completed application means an application that includes all those items specified in §§1703.125, 1703.134, and 1703.144 in form and substance satisfactory to the Administrator.

Computer networks mean computer hardware and software, terminals, signal conversion equipment including both modulators and demodulators, or related devices, used to communicate with other computers to process and exchange data through a telecommunication network in which signals are generated, modified, or prepared for transmission, or received, via telecommunications terminal equipment and telecommunications transmission facilities.

Consortium means a combination or group of entities formed to undertake the purposes for which the distance learning and telemedicine financial assistance is provided. At least one of the entities in a consortium must meet the requirements of §1703.103.

Construct means to acquire, construct, extend, improve, or install a facility or system.

Data terminal equipment means equipment that converts user information into data signals for transmission, or reconverts the received data signals into user information, and is normally found on the terminal of a circuit and on the premises of the end user.

Distance learning means a telecommunications link to an end user through the use of eligible equipment to:

(1) Provide educational programs, instruction, or information originating in one area, whether rural or not, to students and teachers who are located in rural areas; or

(2) Connect teachers and students, located in one rural area with teachers and students that are located in a different rural area.

DLT borrower means an entity that has an outstanding loan under the provisions of the DLT program.

DLT program means the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program administered by RUS.

Economic useful life as applied to equipment and facilities financed under the DLT program means the number of years resulting from dividing 100 percent by the depreciation rate (expressed as a percent) based on Internal Revenue Service depreciation rules or recognized telecommunications industry guidelines.

Eligible equipment means computer hardware and software, audio or video equipment, computer network components, telecommunications terminal equipment, data terminal equipment, inside wiring, interactive video equipment, or other facilities that would further telemedicine services or distance learning services.

Eligible facilities means land, buildings, or building construction needed to carry out an eligible distance learning or telemedicine project for loan financial assistance only.

Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) means any community whose designation as such by USDA pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 1391 et seq., is in effect at the time RUS agrees to provide financial assistance.

End user is one or more of the following:

(1) Rural elementary, secondary schools, and other educational institutions, such as institutions of higher education, vocational and adult training and education centers, libraries, and teacher training centers, and students, teachers and instructors using such rural educational facilities, that participate in a rural distance learning telecommunications program through a project funded under this subpart;

(2) Rural hospitals, primary care centers or facilities, such as medical centers, nursing homes, and clinics, and physicians and staff using such rural medical facilities, that participate in a rural telemedicine program through a project funded under this subpart; and

(3) Other rural community facilities, institutions, or entities that receive distance learning or telemedicine services.

End user site means a facility that is part of a network or telecommunications system that is utilized by end users.

Financial assistance means a grant, combination loan and grant, or loan.

GFR means RUS telecommunications program General Field Representative.

Grant documents means the grant agreement, including any amendments and supplements thereto, between RUS and the grantee.

Grantee means a recipient of a grant from RUS to carry out the purposes of the DLT program.

Guarantee means a guarantee for a loan provided by a RUS borrower or other qualified third party.

Hub means a facility that is part of a network or telecommunications system that provides educational or medical services to end user sites.

Instructional programming means educational material, including computer software, which would be used for educational purposes in connection with eligible equipment but does not include salaries, benefits, and overhead of medical or educational personnel.

Interactive equipment means equipment used to produce and prepare for transmission audio and visual signals from at least two distant locations so that individuals at such locations can orally and visually communicate with each other. Such equipment includes monitors, other display devices, cameras or other recording devices, audio pickup devices, and other related equipment.

Loan means a loan made under the DLT program bearing interest at a rate equal to the then current cost-of-money to the government.

Loan documents mean the loan agreement, note, and security instrument, including any amendments and supplements thereto, between RUS and the DLT borrower.

Local exchange carrier means a commercial, cooperative or mutual-type association, or public body that is engaged in the provision of telephone exchange service or exchange access.

Matching contribution means the applicant's contribution for approved purposes.

National school lunch program (NSLP) means the federally assisted meal program established under the National School Lunch Act of 1946 (42 U.S.C. 1751).

Project means approved purposes for which financial assistance has been provided.

Project service area means the area in which at least 90 percent of the persons to be served by the project are likely to reside.

Recipient means a grantee, borrower, or both of a DLT program grant, loan or combination loan and grant.

Rural community facility means a facility such as a school, library, learning center, training facility, hospital, or medical facility that provides educational or health care benefits primarily to residents of rural areas.

RUS means the Rural Utilities Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, successor to the Rural Electrification Administration.

Secretary means the Secretary of Agriculture.

Technical assistance means:

(1) Assistance in learning to manage, operate, or use equipment or systems; and

(2) Studies, analyses, designs, reports, manuals, guides, literature, or other forms of creating, acquiring, or disseminating information.

Telecommunications carrier means any provider of telecommunications services.

Telecommunications or electric borrower means an entity that has outstanding RUS or Rural Telephone Bank electric or telecommunications loans or loan guarantees under the provisions of the Act.

Telecommunications systems plan means the plan submitted by an applicant in accordance with §1703.125 for grants, §1703.134 for a combination loan and grant, or §1703.144 for loans.

Telecommunications terminal equipment means the assembly of telecommunications equipment at the end of a circuit or path of a signal, including but not limited to facilities that receive or transmit over the air broadcast, satellite, and microwave, normally located on the premises of the end user, that interfaces with telecommunications transmission facilities, and that is used to modify, convert, encode, or otherwise prepare signals to be transmitted via such telecommunications facilities, or that is used to modify, reconvert, or carry signals received from such facilities, the purpose of which is to accomplish the goal for which the circuit or signal was established.

Telecommunications transmission facilities means facilities that transmit, receive, or carry voice, video, or data between the telecommunications terminal equipment at each end of the telecommunications circuit or path. Such facilities include microwave antennae, relay stations and towers, other telecommunications antennae, fiber-optic cables and repeaters, coaxial cables, communication satellite ground station complexes, copper cable electronic equipment associated with telecommunications transmissions, and similar items.

Telemedicine means a telecommunications link to an end user through the use of eligible equipment which electronically links medical professionals at separate sites in order to exchange health care information in audio, video, graphic, or other format for the purpose of providing improved health care services primarily to residents of rural areas.

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.103   Applicant eligibility and allocation of funds.

(a) To be eligible to receive a grant, loan and grant combination, or loan under this subpart:

(1) The applicant must be legally organized as an incorporated organization or partnership, an Indian tribe or tribal organization, as defined in 25 U.S.C. 450b (b) and (c), a state or local unit of government, a consortium, as defined in §1703.102, or other legal entity, including a private corporation organized on a for profit or not-for profit basis. Each applicant must provide written evidence of its legal capacity to contract with RUS to obtain the grant, loan and grant combination, or the loan, and comply with all applicable requirements. If a consortium lacks the legal capacity to contract, each individual entity must contract with RUS in its own behalf.

(2) The applicant proposes to utilize the financing to:

(i) Operate a rural community facility; or

(ii) Deliver distance learning or telemedicine services to entities that operate a rural community facility or to residents of rural areas at rates calculated to ensure that the benefit of the financial assistance is passed through to such entities or to residents of rural areas.

(b) Electric or telecommunications borrowers are not eligible for grants.

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.104   [Reserved]

§1703.105   Processing of selected applications.

(a) During the period between the submission of an application and the execution of documents, the applicant must inform RUS if the project is no longer viable or the applicant no longer is requesting financial assistance for the project. When the applicant so informs RUS, the selection will be rescinded or the application withdrawn and written notice to that effect sent to the applicant.

(b) If an application has been selected and the scope of the project changes substantially, the applicant may be required to submit a new application to RUS for review and consideration depending on the degree of change. A new application will be subject to review in accordance with this subpart. The financial assistance may not be transferred by the applicant for use for another project.

(c) If State or local governments raise objections to a proposed project under the intergovernmental review process that are not resolved within 90 days of the Administrator's selection of the application, the Administrator will rescind the selection and written notice to that effect will be sent to the applicant. The Administrator, in his sole discretion may extend the 90 day period if it appears resolution is imminent.

(d) RUS may request additional information to complete the appropriate documents covering financial assistance.

(e) Financial assistance documents. (1) The documents will include a grant agreement for grants; loan documents, including third party guarantees, notes and security instruments for loans; or any other legal documents the Administrator deems appropriate, including suggested forms of certifications and legal opinions.

(2) The grant agreement and the loan documents will include, among other things, conditions on the release or advance of funds and include at a minimum, a project description, approved purposes, the maximum amount of the financial assistance, supplemental funds required for the project, and certain agreements or commitments the applicant may have proposed in its application. In addition, the loan documents may contain covenants and conditions the Administrator deems necessary or desirable to provide additional assurance that loans will be repaid and the purposes of the loan will be accomplished.

(3) The recipient of a loan will be required to execute a security instrument in form and substance satisfactory to RUS and must, before receiving any advance of loan funds, provide security that is adequate, in the opinion of RUS, to assure repayment, within the time agreed, of all loans to the borrower under the DLT program. This assurance will generally be provided by a first lien upon all facilities and equipment financed by the loan. RUS may require additional security as it deems necessary.

(4) Adequate security may also be provided by third-party guarantees, letters of credit, pledges of revenue, or other forms of security satisfactory to RUS.

(5) The security instrument and other loan documents required by RUS in connection with a loan under the DLT program shall contain such pledges, covenants, and other provisions as may, in the opinion of RUS, be required to secure repayment of the loan.

(6) If the project does not constitute a complete operating system, the DLT recipient shall provide evidence, in form and substance satisfactory to RUS, demonstrating that the recipient has sufficient contractual, financing, or other arrangements to assure that the project will provide adequate and efficient service.

(f) Prior to the execution of a grant and loan document, RUS reserves the right to require any changes in the project or legal documents covering the project to protect the integrity of the DLT program and the interests of the government.

(g) If the applicant fails to submit, within 120 calendar days from the date of RUS' selection of an application, all of the information that RUS determines to be necessary to prepare legal documents and satisfy other requirements of this subpart, RUS may rescind the selection of the application.

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999]

§1703.106   Disbursement of loans and grants.

(a) For financial assistance of $100,000 or greater, prior to the disbursement of a grant and a loan, the recipient, if it is not a unit of government, will provide evidence of fidelity bond coverage as required by 7 CFR part 3019.

(b) Grants and loans will be disbursed to recipients on a reimbursement basis, or with unpaid invoices for the eligible purposes contained in this subpart, by the following process:

(1) An SF 270, “Request for Advance or Reimbursement,” will be completed by the recipient and submitted to RUS not more frequently than once a month;

(2) RUS will review the SF 270 for accuracy when received and will schedule payment if the form is satisfactory. Payment will ordinarily be made within 30 days; and

(3) For financial assistance approved during and subsequent to FY 1999, funds will be advanced in accordance with 7 CFR 1744.69.

(c) The recipient's share in the cost of the project must be disbursed in advance of the loan and grant, or if the recipient agrees, on a pro rata distribution basis with financial assistance during the disbursement period. Recipients will not be permitted to provide their contributions at the end of the project.

(d) A combination loan and grant will be disbursed on a pro rata basis based on the respective amounts of financial assistance provided.

§1703.107   Reporting and oversight requirements.

(a) A project performance activity report will be required of all recipients on an annual basis until the project is complete and the funds are expended by the applicant.

(b) A final project performance report must be provided by the recipient. It must provide an evaluation of the success of the project in meeting the objectives of the program. The final report may serve as the last annual report.

(c) RUS will monitor recipients, as it determines necessary, to assure that projects are completed in accordance with the approved scope of work and that the financial assistance is expended for approved purposes.

(d) Recipients shall diligently monitor performance to ensure that time schedules are being met, projected work by time periods is being accomplished, and other performance objectives are being achieved. Recipients are to submit an original and one copy of all project performance reports, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) A comparison of actual accomplishments to the objectives established for that period;

(2) A description of any problems, delays, or adverse conditions which have occurred, or are anticipated, and which may affect the attainment of overall project objectives, prevent the meeting of time schedules or objectives, or preclude the attainment of particular project work elements during established time periods. This disclosure shall be accompanied by a statement of the action taken or planned to resolve the situation; and

(3) Objectives and timetable established for the next reporting period.

§1703.108   Audit requirements.

A recipient of financial assistance shall provide RUS with an audit for each year, beginning with the year in which a portion of the financial assistance is expended, in accordance with the following:

(a) If the recipient is a for-profit entity, a Telecommunications or Electric borrower, or any other entity not covered by the following paragraph, the recipient shall provide an independent audit report in accordance with 7 CFR part 1773, “Policy on Audits of RUS Borrowers.”

(b) If the recipient is a State or local government, or non-profit organization, the recipient shall provide an audit in accordance with 7 CFR part 3052, “Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations.”

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999]

§1703.109   Grant and loan administration.

RUS will conduct reviews as necessary to determine whether the financial assistance was expended for approved purposes. The recipient is responsible for ensuring that the project complies with all applicable regulations, and that the grants and loans are expended only for approved purposes. The recipient is responsible for ensuring that disbursements and expenditures of funds are properly supported by invoices, contracts, bills of sale, canceled checks, or other appropriate forms of evidence, and that such supporting material is provided to RUS, upon request, and is otherwise made available, at the recipient's premises, for review by the RUS representatives, the recipient's certified public accountant, the Office of Inspector General, U. S. Department of Agriculture, the General Accounting Office, and any other official conducting an audit of the recipient's financial statements or records, and program performance for the grants and loans made under this subpart. The recipient shall permit RUS to inspect and copy any records and documents that pertain to the project.

§1703.110   Changes in project objectives or scope.

The recipient shall obtain prior written approval by RUS for any material change to the scope or objectives of the project, including any changes to the scope of work or the budget submitted to RUS. Any material change shall be contained in a revised scope of work plan to be prepared by the recipient, submitted to, and approved by RUS in writing.

§1703.111   Grant and loan termination.

(a) The financial assistance may be terminated when RUS and the recipient agree upon the conditions of the termination, the effective date of the termination, and, in the case of a partial termination of the financial assistance, any unadvanced portion of the financial assistance to be terminated and any advanced portion of the financial assistance to be returned.

(b) The recipient may terminate the financial assistance by written notification to RUS, providing the reasons for such termination, the effective date, and, in the case of a partial termination, the portion of the financial assistance to be terminated. In the case of a partial termination, if RUS believes that the remaining portion of the financial assistance will not accomplish the approved purposes, then, RUS may terminate the financial assistance in its entirety, pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section.

§1703.112   Expedited telecommunications loans

RUS will expedite consideration and determination of an application submitted by an RUS telecommunications borrower for a loan under the Act or an advance of such loan funds to be used in conjunction with financial assistance under subparts E, F, or G of this part. See 7 CFR part 1737 for loans and 7 CFR part 1744 for advances under this section.

§§1703.113-1703.119   [Reserved]

Subpart E—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program

Source: 64 FR 14360, Mar. 25, 1999, unless otherwise noted.

§1703.120   [Reserved]

§1703.121   Approved purposes for grants.

For distance learning and telemedicine projects, grants shall finance only the costs for approved purposes. Grants shall be expended only for the costs associated with the initial capital assets associated with the project. The following are approved grant purposes:

(a) Acquiring, by lease or purchase, eligible equipment as defined in §1703.102;

(b) Acquiring instructional programming; and

(c) Providing technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment, including any related software; developing instructional programming; providing engineering or environmental studies relating to the establishment or expansion of the phase of the project that is being financed with the grant (this purpose shall not exceed 10 percent of the grant).

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.122   Matching contributions.

(a) The grant applicant's minimum matching contribution must equal 15 percent of the grant amount requested and shall be used for approved purposes for grants listed in §1703.121. Matching contributions generally must be in the form of cash. However, in-kind contributions solely for the purposes listed in §1703.121 may be substituted for cash.

(b) In-kind items listed in §1703.121 must be non-depreciated or new assets with established monetary values. Manufacturers' or service providers' discounts are not considered in-kind matching.

(c) Costs incurred by the applicant, or others on behalf of the applicant, for facilities or equipment installed, or other services rendered prior to submission of a completed application, shall not be considered as an eligible in-kind matching contribution.

(d) Costs incurred for non-approved purposes for grant outlined in §1703.123 shall not be used as an in-kind matching contribution.

(e) Any financial assistance from Federal sources will not be considered as matching contributions under this subpart unless there is a Federal statutory exception specifically authorizing the Federal financial assistance to be considered as a matching contribution.

[64 FR 14357, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.123   Nonapproved purposes for grants.

(a) A grant made under this subpart will not be provided or used:

(1) To cover the costs of acquiring, installing or constructing telecommunications transmission facilities;

(2) To pay for medical equipment not having telemedicine as its essential function;

(3) To pay salaries, wages, or employee benefits to medical or educational personnel;

(4) To pay for the salaries or administrative expenses of the applicant or the project;

(5) To purchase equipment that will be owned by the local exchange carrier or another telecommunications service provider unless that service provider is the applicant.

(6) To duplicate facilities providing distance learning or telemedicine services in place or to reimburse the applicant or others for costs incurred prior to RUS' receipt of the completed application;

(7) To pay costs of preparing the application package for financial assistance under this program;

(8) For projects whose sole objective is to provide links between teachers and students or between medical professionals who are located at the same facility;

(9) For site development and the destruction or alteration of buildings;

(10) For the purchase of land, buildings, or building construction;

(11) For projects located in areas covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.);

(12) For any purpose that the Administrator has not specifically approved;

(13) Except for leases provided for in §1703.121, to pay the cost of recurring or operating expenses for the project; or

(14) For any other purposes not specifically contained in §1703.121.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in §1703.112, grants shall not be used to finance a project, in part, when the success of the project is dependent upon the receipt of additional financial assistance under this subpart or is dependent upon the receipt of other financial assistance that is not assured.

[64 FR 14360, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999; 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.124   Maximum and minimum grant amounts.

Applications for grants under this subpart will be subject to limitations on the proposed amount of grant funds. The Administrator will establish the maximum amount of a grant to be made available to an individual recipient for each fiscal year under this subpart by publishing notice of the maximum amount in the Federal Register not sooner than 45 days before the period for accepting applications begins. The minimum amount of a grant is $50,000.

§1703.125   Completed application.

The following items are required to be submitted to RUS in support of an application for grant funds:

(a) An application for Federal Assistance. A completed Standard Form 424.

(b) An executive summary of the project. The applicant must provide RUS with a general project overview that addresses the following 8 categories:

(1) A description of why the project is needed;

(2) An explanation of how the applicant will address the need cited in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, why the applicant requires financial assistance, the types of educational or medical services to be offered by the project, and the benefits to rural residents;

(3) A description of the applicant, documenting eligibility in accordance with §1703.103;

(4) An explanation of the total project cost including a breakdown of the grant required and the source of matching contribution and other financial assistance for the remainder of the project;

(5) A statement specifying whether the project is either a distance learning or telemedicine facility as defined in §1703.102. If the project provides both distance learning and telemedicine services, the applicant must identify the predominant use of the system;

(6) A general overview of the telecommunications system to be developed, including the types of equipment, technologies, and facilities used;

(7) A description of the participating hubs and end user sites and the number of rural residents that will be served by the project at each end user site; and

(8) A certification by the applicant that facilities constructed with grants do not duplicate adequate established telemedicine or distance learning services.

(9) A listing of the location of each end user site (city, town, village, borough, or rural areas) plus the State.

(c) Scoring criteria documentation. Each grant applicant must address and provide documentation on how it meets each of the scoring criteria contained in §1703.126.

(d) A scope of work. The scope of work must include, at a minimum:

(1) The specific activities to be performed under the project;

(2) Who will carry out the activities;

(3) The time-frames for accomplishing the project objectives and activities; and

(4) A budget for all capital expenditures reflecting the line item costs for approved purposes for both the grant funds and other sources of funds for the project. Separately, the budget must specify any line item costs that are nonapproved purposes for grants as contained in §1703.123.

(e) Financial information and sustainability. The applicant must provide a narrative description demonstrating: feasibility of the project, including having sufficient resources and expertise necessary to undertake and complete the project; and, how the project will be sustained following completion of the project.

(f) A statement of experience. The applicant must provide a written narrative (not exceeding three single spaced pages) describing its demonstrated capability and experience, if any, in operating an educational or health care endeavor and any project similar to the project. Experience in a similar project is desirable but not required.

(g) Funding commitment from other sources. The applicant must provide evidence, in form and substance satisfactory to RUS, that funding agreements have been obtained to ensure completion of the project. These agreements shall be sufficient to ensure:

(1) Payment of all proposed expenditures for the project;

(2) All required matching contribution in 1703.120;

(3) any additional matching funding provided in accordance with §1703.126(b)(4); and

(4) Any other funds necessary to complete the project.

(h) A telecommunications system plan. A telecommunications system plan consisting of the following:

(1) The capabilities of the telecommunications terminal equipment, including a description of the specific equipment which will be used to deliver the proposed service. The applicant must document discussions with various technical sources which could include consultants, engineers, product vendors, or internal technical experts, provide detailed cost estimates for operating and maintaining the end user equipment and provide evidence that alternative equipment and technologies were evaluated.

(2) A listing of the proposed telecommunications terminal equipment, telecommunications transmission facilities, data terminal equipment, interactive video equipment, computer hardware and software systems, and components that process data for transmission via telecommunications, computer network components, communication satellite ground station equipment, or any other elements of the telecommunications system designed to further the purposes of this subpart, that the applicant intends to build or fund using RUS financial assistance.

(3) A description of the consultations with the appropriate telecommunications carriers (including other interexchange carriers, cable television operators, enhanced service providers, providers of satellite services and telecommunications equipment manufacturers and distributors) and the anticipated role of such providers in the proposed telecommunications system.

(i) Compliance with other Federal statutes. The applicant must provide evidence of compliance with other Federal statutes and regulations including, but not limited to the following:

(1) E.O. 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, as amended by E.O. 11375 and as supplemented by regulations contained in 41 CFR part 60;

(2) Architectural barriers;

(3) Flood hazard area precautions;

(4) Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970;

(5) Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 (41 U.S.C. 701);

(6) E.O.s 12549 and 12689, Debarment and Suspension;

(7) Byrd Anti-Lobbying Amendment (31 U.S.C. 1352).

(j) Environmental impact and historic preservation. (1) The applicant must provide details of the project's impact on the environment and historic preservation. Grants made under this part are subject to part 1794 of this chapter which contains RUS' policies and procedures for implementing a variety of Federal statutes, regulations, and executive orders generally pertaining to the protection of the quality of the human environment that are listed in 7 CFR 1794.1. The application shall contain a separate section entitled “Environmental Impact of the Project.”

(2) The applicant may use the “Environmental Questionnaire,” available from RUS, to assist in complying with the requirements of this section.

(k) Evidence of legal authority and existence. The applicant must provide evidence of its legal existence and authority to enter into a grant agreement with RUS and perform the activities proposed under the grant application.

(l) Federal debt certification. The applicant must provide a certification that it is not delinquent on any obligation owed to the government (7 CFR parts 3016 and 3019).

(m) Consultation with USDA State Director, Rural Development. The applicant must provide evidence that it has consulted with the USDA State Director, Rural Development, concerning the availability of other sources of funding available at the State or local level.

(n) State strategic plan conformity. The applicant must provide evidence from the USDA State Director, Rural Development, that the application conforms with the State strategic plan as prepared under section 381D of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 1921 et seq.). The applicant should indicate if such a plan does not exist.

(o) Supplemental information. The applicant should provide any additional information it considers relevant to the project and likely to be helpful in determining the extent to which the project would further the purposes of the 1996 Act.

(p) Additional information required by RUS. The applicant must provide any additional information RUS may consider relevant to the application and necessary to adequately evaluate the application. RUS may request modifications or changes, including changes in the amount of financial assistance requested, in any proposal described in an application submitted under this subpart.

[64 FR 14360, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999; 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002]

§1703.126   Criteria for scoring grant applications.

(a) Criteria. The criteria in this section will be used by RUS to score applications that have been determined to be in compliance with the requirements of this subpart. Applications for grants must meet the rurality requirements in paragraph (b)(2)(iv) of this section and address each of the following scoring criteria:

(1) The need for services and benefits derived from services (up to 55 points);

(2) The comparative rurality of the project service area (up to 45 points);

(3) The economic need of the applicant's service area as estimated by the NSLP or other supplemental objective criteria (up to 35 points);

(4) The ability of the applicant to leverage resources (up to 35 points);

(5) Innovativeness of the project (up to 15 points);

(6) The cost effectiveness of the system (up to 35 points);

(7) Project participation in EZ/ECs (Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Communities) and Champion Communities (up to 15 points).

(b) Scoring criteria:

(1) The need for services and benefits derived from services—Up to 55 Points. (i) This criterion will be used by RUS to score applications based on the documentation in support of the need for services, benefits derived from the services proposed by the project, and local community involvement in planning, implementing, and financial assistance of the project. Applicants may receive up to 45 points for documenting the need for services and benefits derived from service as explained in this section. Applicants with an average NSLP percentage less than 50 percent as determined in paragraph (b)(3) of this section may receive up to an additional 10 points based on information submitted that evidences the economic need of the project's service area. This determination will be made by RUS based on information submitted by the applicant under paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(ii) RUS will consider the extent of the applicant's documentation explaining the economic, education, or health care challenges facing the community; the applicant's proposed plan to address these challenges; how the grant can help; and why the applicant cannot complete the project without a grant. RUS will also consider the extent to which the applicant provides evidence that economic, education, or health care challenges could not be addressed without employing advanced technology. The Administrator will also consider any support by recognized experts in the related educational or health care field, any documentation substantiating the educational or health care underserved nature of the applicant's proposed service area, and any justification for specific educational or medical services which are needed and will provide direct benefits to rural residents.

(A) Some examples of benefits to be provided by the project include, but are not limited to:

(1) Improved educational opportunities for a specified number of students;

(2) Travel time and money saved by telemedicine diagnoses;

(3) Number of doctors retained in rural areas;

(4) Number of additional students electing to attend higher education institutions;

(5) Lives saved due to prompt medical diagnoses and treatment;

(6) New education courses offered, including college level courses;

(7) Expanded use of educational facilities such as night training;

(8) Number of patients receiving telemedicine diagnoses;

(9) Provision of training, information resources, library assets, adult education, lifetime learning, community use of technology, jobs, connection to region, nation, and world.

(B) Other matters that will be considered by RUS under this criterion include:

(1) That rural residents, and other beneficiaries, desire the educational or medical services to be provided by the project. A strong indication of need is the willingness of local end users or institutions, to the extent possible, to contribute to the capital costs of establishing the project. This could include letters of financial commitment toward the project from local institutions.

(2) The extent of the project's planning, development, and support by local residents and institutions. This may include evidence of community involvement, as exemplified in community meetings, public forums, and surveys. In addition, applicants should provide evidence of local residents' participation in the project planning and development.

(3) The extent to which the application addresses the problems of population out-migration and how the project seeks to slow, halt, or prevent population loss.

(4) The extent to which the application is consistent with the State strategic plan prepared by the Rural Development State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture.

(2) The comparative rurality of the project service area—Up to 45 Points. This criterion will be used to evaluate the relative rurality of service areas for various projects. Under this system, the end user sites and hubs (as defined in §1703.102) contained within the project service area are identified and given a score according to the population of the area where the end user sites are located.

(i) The following definitions are used in the evaluation of rurality:

(A) Exceptionally Rural Area means any area of the United States not included within the boundaries of any incorporated or unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population in excess of 5,000 inhabitants.

(B) Rural Area means any area of the United States included within the boundaries of any incorporated or unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population over 5,000 and not in excess of 10,000 inhabitants.

(C) Mid-Rural Area means any area of the United States included within the boundaries of any incorporated or unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population over 10,000 and not in excess of 20,000 inhabitants.

(D) Urban Area means any area of the United States included within the boundaries of any incorporated or unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population in excess of 20,000 inhabitants.

(ii) There are a total of 45 possible points for this criterion. Each end user site will receive points based on its location in accordance with paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section. If a hub is utilized as an end user site, the hub will be considered as an end user site. The applicant will receive points as follows:

(A) If the end user site is located in an Exceptionally Rural Area, it will receive 45 points.

(B) If the end user site is located in a Rural Area, it will receive 30 points.

(C) If the end user site is located in a Mid-Rural Area, it will receive 15 points.

(D) If the end user site is located in an Urban Area, it will receive 0 points.

(iii) The total score for this criterion will be based on the average score for all the end user sites included in the project.

(iv) An application must receive a minimum of 20 points as an average score for all the end user sites under this criterion to be eligible for a grant.

(3) The economic need of the applicant's service area as estimated by NSLP—Up to 35 points. This criterion will be used to evaluate the relative financial need of the applicant, community, and project. All applicants are required to provide the applicable percentage of students eligible to participate in the NSLP for each area to be served by the end user site. The appropriate State or local organization administering the program must certify the percentages as being correct. The applicant must provide RUS with a listing of the location of each end user site (city, town, village, borough or rural area plus the State) discussing how the appropriate NSLP percentage was determined in accordance with this section. These percentages may be obtained from the State or local organization that administers the program and must be certified by that organization as being correct. For purposes of this subpart, the NSLP percentage will reflect the percentage of eligibility rather than the percentage of actual participation.

(i) The following guidelines will be used to determine the applicable NSLP percent for a particular application:

(A) Public schools or non-profit private schools of high school grade or under will use the actual eligibility percentage for that particular school.

(B) Schools and institutions of higher learning ineligible to participate in the NSLP and non-school end user sites (medical facilities, libraries, etc.) will use the eligibility percentage of all students in the school district where the end user will be located.

(C) Percentage ratios will be rounded up to the next highest or rounded down to the next lowest whole number for fraction of percentages at or greater than .5 or less than .5, respectively.

(D) The project NSLP percentage will be determined by the average of the NSLP percentages of the end user sites. If end user sites fall within different percentile categories, the eligibility percentages associated with each end user site will be averaged to determine the percentile category. For purposes of averaging, if a hub is also utilized as an end user site, the hub will be considered as an end user site.

(ii) The applicant will receive points as follows:

(A) NSLP percentage greater than or equal to 75 percent—35 points

(B) NSLP percentage greater than or equal to 50 percent but less than 75 percent—25 points

(C) NSLP percentage greater than or equal to 25 percent but less than 50 percent—15 points

(D) NSLP percentage less than 25% percent—0 points

(4) The ability of the applicant to leverage financial resources—Up to 35 points. This criterion will be used to evaluate the ability of the applicant to provide a matching contribution for the project using other non-Federal financial assistance. Documentation submitted in support of the application should reflect any additional financial support for the project from non-Federal sources above the applicant's minimum matching contribution of 15 percent as required by §1703.122. The applicant must include evidence, from authorized representatives of the sources, of a commitment that the funds are available and will be used for the project. The applicant will receive points as follows:

(i) Matching contribution for approved purposes greater than 15 percent, but less than or equal to 30 percent of the grant requested—0 points.

(ii) Matching contribution for approved purposes greater than 30 percent, but less than or equal to 50 percent of the grant requested—15 points.

(iii) Matching contribution for approved purposes greater than 50 percent, but less than or equal to 75 percent of the grant requested—25 points.

(iv) Matching contribution for approved purposes greater than 75 percent, but less than or equal to 100 percent of the grant requested—30 points.

(v) Matching contribution for a grant for approved purposes greater than 100 percent of the grant requested—35 points.

(5) Innovativeness of the project—Up to 15 points. This criterion will be used to evaluate the innovativeness of application based on documentation that shows how the project utilizes advanced telecommunications in a unique way to address the needs of the community. Innovativeness should be addressed in the context of how the project will deliver distance learning or telemedicine services more effectively or at a lower cost. The following issues may be addressed to show how the project differs from a typical distance learning and telemedicine network as follows:

(i) The extent to which the project differs from a technical standpoint;

(ii) The extent to which the project differs from an educational or medical programmatic standpoint;

(iii) The extent to which the project reflects a unique adaptation of technology based on the special needs or circumstances of the proposed area to be served by the project; and

(iv) The potential of the project to influence or lead changes in how telecommunications services can be delivered in other areas.

(6) The cost-effectiveness of the project—Up to 35 points. This criterion will be used to evaluate the cost effectiveness of the application based on the extent that cost-efficiency is considered in delivering the services in the project. The following issues should be addressed under this criterion:

(i) The extent to which the applicant has considered various technological options for delivering the services. The applicant must provide sufficient documentation reflecting accepted analytical and financial methodologies to substantiate its choice of technology as the most cost-effective option. RUS will consider the applicant's documentation and analysis comparing various systems and technologies.

(ii) Whether buying or leasing specific equipment is more cost effective.

(iii) The extent to which the project will utilize other existing networks at the regional, statewide, national or international levels. To the extent possible, educational and health care networks should be designed to utilize the widest practicable number of other networks that expand the capabilities of the project, thereby affording rural residents opportunities that may not be available at the local level. The ability to connect to the Internet alone cannot be used as the sole basis to fulfill this criteria.

(iv) The extent to which the facilities being constructed with financial assistance, particularly financial assistance under this chapter provided to entities other than the applicant, will be utilized to extend or enhance the benefits of the project.

(v) The extent to which the project utilizes existing telecommunications transmission facilities that could provide the transmission path for the needed services. For projects that do not utilize existing transmission facilities, RUS will consider documentation explaining the necessity of this option. RUS will also consider any agreements between the applicant and other entities for sharing transmission facilities to lower the fixed costs of such facilities.

(7) Project participation in EZ/ECs and champion communities—(Up to 15 Points). This criterion will be used by RUS to score applications based on the number of end user sites within an EZ/EC and Champion Community. Ten (10) points will be assigned if at least one end user site is located in an EZ/EC. Five (5) points will be assigned if at least one end user site is located in a Champion Community.

[64 FR 14360, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999, as amended at 67 FR 3040, Mar. 11, 2002; 67 FR 16011, Apr. 4, 2002]

§1703.127   Application selection provisions.

(a) Applications will be selected for approval based on scores assigned, availability of funds, and the provisions of this section. RUS will make determinations regarding the reasonableness of all numbers; dollar levels; rates; the nature and design of the project; costs; location; and other characteristics of the application and the project to determine the number of points assigned to a grant application for all selection criteria.

(b) Regardless of the number of points an application receives in accordance with §1703.126, the Administrator may, based on a review of the applications in accordance with the requirements of this subpart:

(1) Limit the number of applications selected for projects located in any one State during a fiscal year;

(2) Limit the number of selected applications for a particular project;

(3) Select an application receiving fewer points than another higher scoring application if there are insufficient funds during a particular funding period to select the higher scoring application. In this case, however, the Administrator will provide the applicant of the higher scoring application the opportunity to reduce the amount of its grant request to the amount of funds available. If the applicant agrees to lower its grant request, it must certify that the purposes of the project can be met, and the Administrator must determine the project is financially feasible at the lower amount in accordance with §1703.125(e)(1). An applicant or multiple applicants affected under this paragraph will have the opportunity to be considered for loan financing in accordance with subparts F and G of this part.

(c) RUS will not approve a grant if RUS determines that:

(1) The applicant's proposal does not indicate financial feasibility or is not sustainable in accordance with the requirements of §1703.125(e)(1);

(2) The applicant's proposal indicates technical flaws, which, in the opinion of RUS, would prevent successful implementation, operation, or sustainability of the project;

(3) Other applications would provide more benefit to rural America based on a review of the financial and technical information submitted in accordance with §1703.125(e).

(4) Any other aspect of the applicant's proposal fails to adequately address any requirement of this subpart or contains inadequacies which would, in the opinion of RUS, undermine the ability of the project to meet the general purpose of this subpart or comply with policies of the DLT Program contained in §1703.101.

(d) Grant applications will be ranked by the type of application (health care or educational) and total points scored. Grants available for medical and educational applicants may be allocated based on the total number of medical and educational applications scoring in the top 50 percent of all applications received for that fiscal year. Based on the number and type of applications received, applications may be ranked only in one category based on the predominant use of the project.

(e) RUS may reduce the amount of the applicant's grant based on insufficient program funding for the fiscal year in which the project is reviewed. RUS will discuss its findings informally with the applicant and make every effort to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the applicant. Any discussions with the applicant and agreements made with regard to a reduced grant amount will be confirmed in writing, and these actions shall be deemed to have met the notification requirements set forth in paragraph (f) of this section.

(f) RUS will provide the applicant with an explanation of any determinations made with regard to paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(4) of this section prior to making final project selections for the year. The applicant will be provided 15 days from the date of RUS' letter to respond, provide clarification, or make any adjustments or corrections to the project. If, in the opinion of the Administrator, the applicant fails to adequately respond to any determinations or other findings made by the Administrator, the project will not be funded, and the applicant will be notified of this determination. If the applicant does not agree with this finding an appeal may be filed in accordance with §1703.129.

(g) Grantees shall comply with all applicable provisions of 7 CFR parts 3015, 3016, and 3019.

[64 FR 14360, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999]

§1703.128   Submission of applications.

(a) Applications for grants shall be submitted to the RUS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., STOP 1590, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Applications should be marked “Attention: Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program”.

(b) Applications must be submitted to RUS postmarked not later than the application filing deadline established by the Administrator if the applications are to be considered during the period for which the application was submitted. The deadline for submission of applications each fiscal year will be published, and provided through other notices, by RUS in the Federal Register, at least 30 days before the deadline occurs. It is suggested that applications be submitted prior to the respective deadline to ensure they can be reviewed and considered complete by the deadline. RUS will review each application for completeness in accordance with §1703.125, and notify the applicant, within 15 working days of the receipt of the application, of the results of this review, citing any information that is incomplete. To be considered for a grant, the applicant must submit the information to complete the application within 15 working days of the date of RUS' written response. If the applicant has submitted an application prior to the application filing deadline, the applicant will have 15 working days from RUS' response or until the application filing deadline to submit information, whichever provides the applicant more time. If the applicant fails to submit such information by the appropriate deadline, the application will be considered during the next established application period.

(c) All applicants must submit an original and two copies of a completed application. Applicants must also submit a copy of the application to the State government point of contact, if one has been designated for the State, at the same time it submits an application to RUS. All applications must include the information required by §1703.125.

§1703.129   Appeals.

All qualifying applications under this subpart will be scored based on the criteria contained in §1703.126. Awards will be made by RUS based on the highest ranking applications and the amount of financial assistance available for grants. All applicants will be notified in writing of the score each application receives, and included in this notification will be a tentative minimum required score to receive financial assistance. If the score received by the applicant could result in the denial of its application, or if its score, while apparently sufficient to qualify for financial assistance, may be surpassed by the score awarded to a competing application after appeal, that applicant may appeal its numerical scoring. Any appeal must be based on inaccurate scoring of the application by RUS and no new information or data that was not included in the original application will be considered. The appeal must be made, in writing, within 10 days after the applicant is notified of the scoring results. Appeals shall be submitted to the Administrator, RUS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., STOP 1590, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Thereafter, the Administrator will review the original scoring to determine whether to sustain, reverse, or modify the original scoring determination. Final determinations will be made after consideration of all appeals. The Administrator's determination will be final. A copy of the Administrator's decision will be furnished promptly to the applicant.

Subpart F—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Combination Loan and Grant Program

Source: 64 FR 14366, Mar. 25, 1999, unless otherwise noted.

§1703.130   Use of combination loan and grant.

(a) A combination loan and grant may be used by eligible organizations as defined in §1703.103 for distance learning and telemedicine projects to finance 100 percent of the cost of approved purposes contained in §1703.131 provided that no financial assistance may exceed the maximum amount for the year in which the combination loan and grant is made.

(b) Applicants must meet the minimum eligibility requirement for determining the extent to which the project serves rural areas as determined in §1703.126(b)(2) (the applicant must receive at least 20 points to be eligible to receive financial assistance under this subpart).

§1703.131   Approved purposes for a combination loan and grant.

The approved purposes for a combination loan and grant are:

(a) Acquiring, by lease or purchase, eligible equipment or facilities as defined in §1703.102;

(b) Acquiring instructional programming;

(c) Providing technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment, including any related software; developing instructional programming; providing engineering or environmental studies relating to the establishment or expansion of the phase of the project that is being financed with a combination loan and grant (this purpose shall not exceed 10 percent of the total requested financial assistance);

(d) Paying for medical or educational equipment and facilities that are shown to be necessary to implement the project, including vehicles utilizing distance learning and telemedicine technology to deliver educational and health care services. The applicant must demonstrate that such items are necessary to meet the purposes under this subpart and financial assistance for such equipment and facilities is not available from other sources at a cost which would not adversely affect the economic viability of the project;

(e) Providing links between teachers and students or medical professionals who are located at the same facility, provided that such facility receives or provides distance learning or telemedicine services as part of a distance learning or telemedicine network which meets the purposes of this subpart;

(f) Providing for site development and alteration of buildings in order to meet the purposes of this subpart. Financial assistance for this purpose must be necessary and incidental to the total amount of financial assistance requested;

(g) Purchasing of land, buildings, or building construction determined by RUS to be necessary and incidental to the project. The applicant must demonstrate that financial assistance funding from other sources is not available at a cost that does not adversely impact the economic viability of the project as determined by the Administrator. Financial assistance for this purpose must be necessary and incidental to the total amount of financial assistance requested; and

(h) Acquiring telecommunications transmission facilities provided that no telecommunications carrier will install such facilities under the Act or through other financial procedures within a reasonable time period and at a cost to the applicant that does not impact the economic viability of the project, as determined by the Administrator.

§1703.132   Nonapproved purposes for a combination loan and grant.

(a) Without limitation, a combination loan and grant made under this subpart shall not be expended:

(1) To pay salaries, wages, or employee benefits to medical or educational personnel;

(2) To pay for the salaries or administrative expenses of the applicant or the project;

(3) To purchase equipment that will be owned by the local exchange carrier or another telecommunications service provider, unless the applicant is the local exchange carrier or other telecommunications service provider;

(4) To duplicate facilities providing distance learning or telemedicine services in place or to reimburse the applicant or others for costs incurred prior to RUS' receipt of the completed application;

(5) For projects located in areas covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.);

(6) For any purpose that the Administrator has not specifically approved;

(7) Except for leases (see §1703.131), to pay the cost of recurring or operating expenses for the project; or,

(8) For any other purposes not specifically outlined in §1703.131.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in §1703.112, funds shall not be used to finance a project, in part, when the success of the project is dependent upon the receipt of additional financial assistance under this subpart or is dependent upon the receipt of other funding that is not assured.

§1703.133   Maximum and minimum amounts.

Applications for a combination loan and grant under this subpart will be subject to limitations on the proposed amount of loans and grants. The Administrator will establish the maximum amount of loans and grants and the portion of grant funds as a percentage of total assistance for each project to be made available to an individual recipient for each fiscal year under this subpart, by publishing notice of the maximum amount in the Federal Register before the beginning of the fiscal year to carry out this subpart. The minimum amount of a combination loan and grant is $50,000.

§1703.134   Completed application.

The following items are required to be submitted to RUS in support of an application for a combination loan and grant:

(a) An application for federal assistance: A completed Standard Form 424.

(b) An executive summary of the project: The applicant must provide RUS with a general project overview that addresses each of the following 9 categories:

(1) A description of why the project is needed;

(2) An explanation of how the applicant will address the need cited in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, why the applicant requires financial assistance, the types of educational or medical services to be offered by the project, and the benefits to the rural residents;

(3) A description of the applicant, documenting eligibility in accordance with §1703.103;

(4) An explanation of the total project cost including a breakdown of the combination loan and grant required and the source of funding, if applicable, for the remainder of the project;

(5) A statement specifying whether the project provides predominantly distance learning or telemedicine services as defined in §1703.102. If the project provides both distance learning and telemedicine services, the applicant must identify the predominant use of the system;

(6) A general overview of the telecommunications system to be developed, including the types of equipment, technologies, and facilities used;

(7) A description of the participating hubs and end user sites and the number of rural residents that will be served by the project at each end user site;

(8) A certification by the applicant that facilities constructed with a combination loan and grant do not duplicate adequately established telemedicine or distance learning services.

(9) A listing of the location of each end user site (city, town, village, borough, or rural area plus the State).

(c) A scope of work. The scope of work must include, at a minimum:

(1) The specific activities to be performed under the project;

(2) Who will carry out the activities;

(3) The time-frames for accomplishing the project objectives and activities; and

(4) A budget for capital expenditures reflecting the line item costs for both the combination loan and grant and any other sources of funds for the project.

(d) Financial information. The applicant must show its financial ability to complete the project; show project feasibility; and provide evidence that it can execute a note for a loan with a maturity period greater than one year. For educational institutions participating in a project application (including all members of a consortium), the financial data must reflect revenue and expense reports and balance sheet reports, reflecting net worth, for the most recent annual reporting period preceding the date of the application. For medical institutions participating in a project application (including all members of a consortium), the financial data must include income statement and balance sheet reports, reflecting net worth, for the most recent completed fiscal year preceding the date of the application. When the applicant is a partnership, company, corporation, or other entity, current balance sheets, reflecting net worth, are needed from each of the entities that has at least a 20 percent interest in such partnership, company, corporation or other entity. When the applicant is a consortium, a current balance sheet, reflecting net worth, is needed from each member of the consortium and from each of the entities that has at least a 20 percent interest in such member of the consortium.

(1) Applicants must include sufficient pro-forma financial data that adequately reflects the financial capability of project participants and the project as a whole to continue a sustainable project for a minimum of 10 years and repay the loan portion of the combination loan and grant. This documentation should include sources of sufficient income or revenues to pay operating expenses including telecommunications access and toll charges, system maintenance, salaries, training, and any other general operating expenses, provide for replacement of depreciable items, and show repayment of interest and principal for the loan portion of the combination loan and grant.

(2) A list of property which will be used as collateral to secure repayment of the loan. The applicant shall purchase and own collateral that secures the loan free from liens or security interests and take all actions necessary to perfect a security interest in the collateral that secures the loan. RUS considers as adequate security for a loan, a guarantee by a RUS telecommunications or electric borrower or by another qualified party. Additional forms of security, including letters of credit, real estate, or any other items will be considered. RUS will determine the adequacy of the security offered.

(3) As applicable, a depreciation schedule covering all assets of the project. Those assets for which a combination loan and grant are being requested should be clearly indicated.

(4) For each hub and end user site, the applicant must identify and provide reasonable evidence of each source of revenue. If the projection relies on cost sharing arrangements among hub and end user sites, the applicant must provide evidence of agreements made among project participants.

(5) For applicants eligible under §1703.103(a)(3), an explanation of the economic analysis justifying the rate structure to ensure that the benefit, including cost saving, of the financial assistance is passed through to the other persons receiving telemedicine or distance learning services.

(e) A statement of experience. The applicant must provide a written narrative (not exceeding three single spaced pages) describing its demonstrated capability and experience, if any, in operating an educational or health care endeavor similar to the project. Experience in a similar project is desirable but not required.

(f) A telecommunications system plan. A telecommunications system plan, consisting of the following (the items in paragraphs (f)(4) and (f)(5) of this section are required only when the applicant is requesting a combination loan and grant for telecommunications transmission facilities):

(1) The capabilities of the telecommunications terminal equipment, including a description of the specific equipment which will be used to deliver the proposed service. The applicant must document discussions with various technical sources which could include consultants, engineers, product vendors, or internal technical experts, provide detailed cost estimates for operating and maintaining the end user equipment and provide evidence that alternative equipment and technologies were evaluated.

(2) A listing of the proposed purchases or leases of telecommunications terminal equipment, telecommunications transmission facilities, data terminal equipment, interactive video equipment, computer hardware and software systems, and components that process data for transmission via telecommunications, computer network components, communication satellite ground station equipment, or any other elements of the telecommunications system designed to further the purposes of this subpart, that the applicant intends to build or fund using a combination loan and grant.

(3) A description of the consultations with the appropriate telecommunications carriers (including other interexchange carriers, cable television operators, enhanced service providers, providers of satellite services, and telecommunications equipment manufacturers and distributors) and the anticipated role of such providers in the proposed telecommunications system.

(4) Results of discussions with local exchange carriers serving the project area addressing the concerns contained in §1703.131(h).

(5) The capabilities of the telecommunications transmission facilities, including bandwidth, networking topology, switching, multiplexing, standards, and protocols for intra-networking and open systems architecture (the ability to effectively communicate with other networks). In addition, the applicant must explain the manner in which the transmission facilities will deliver the proposed services. For example, for medical diagnostics, the applicant might indicate whether or not a guest or other diagnosticians can join the network from locations off the network. For educational services, indicate whether or not all hub and end-user sites are able to simultaneously hear in real-time and see each other or the instructional material in real-time. The applicant must include detailed cost estimates for operating and maintaining the network, and include evidence that alternative delivery methods and systems were evaluated.

(g) Compliance with other Federal statutes. The applicant must provide evidence of compliance with other federal statutes and regulations including, but not limited to the following:

(1) E.O. 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, as amended by E.O. 11375 and as supplemented by regulations contained in 41 CFR part 60;

(2) Architectural barriers;

(3) Flood hazard area precautions;

(4) Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970;

(5) Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 (41 U.S.C. 701);

(6) E.O.s 12549 and 12689, Debarment and Suspension;

(7) Byrd Anti-Lobbying Amendment (31 U.S.C. 1352).

(h) Environmental impact and historic preservation. (1) The applicant must provide details of the project's impact on the environment and historic preservation. Loans and grants made under this part are subject to 7 CFR part 1794 which contains RUS' policies and procedures for implementing a variety of Federal statutes, regulations, and Executive orders generally pertaining to the protection of the quality of the human environment that are listed in 7 CFR 1794.1. The application shall contain a separate section entitled “Environmental Impact of the Project.”

(2) The applicant may use the “Environmental Questionnaire,” available from RUS, to assist in complying with the requirements of this section.

(i) Evidence of legal authority and existence. The applicant must provide evidence of its legal existence and authority to enter into a grant and incur debt with RUS.

(j) Federal debt certification. The applicant must provide evidence that it is not delinquent on any obligation owed to the government.

(k) Supplemental information. The applicant should provide any additional information it considers relevant to the project and likely to be helpful in determining the extent to which the project would further the purposes of this subpart.

(l) Additional information required by RUS. The applicant must provide any additional information RUS may consider relevant to the application and necessary to adequately evaluate the application. RUS may also request modifications or changes, including changes in the amount of funds requested, in any proposal described in an application submitted under this subpart.

[64 FR 14366, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999]

§1703.135   Application selection provisions.

(a) A combination loan and grant will be approved based on availability of funds, the financial feasibility of the project in accordance with §1703.134(d), the services to be provided which demonstrate that the project meets the general requirements of this subpart, the design of the project; costs; location; and other characteristics of the application.

(b) RUS will determine, from the information submitted with each application for a combination loan and grant, whether the application achieves sufficient priority, based on the criteria set forth in the 1996 Act, to receive a combination loan and grant from funds available for the fiscal year. If such priority is achieved, RUS will process the combination loan and grant application on a first-in, first-out basis, provided that the total amount of applications on-hand for combination loans and grants does not exceed 90 percent of the total loan and grant funding available for the fiscal year. At such time as the total amount of applications eligible for combination loans and grants, if such applications were approved, exceeds 90 percent of amount of combination loan and grant funding available, RUS will process the remaining applications using the evaluation criteria set forth in §1703.126.

(c) RUS will not approve a combination loan and grant if RUS determines that:

(1) The applicant's proposal does not indicate financial feasibility, or will not be adequately secured in accordance with the requirements contained in §1703.134(d);

(2) The applicant's proposal indicates technical flaws, which, in the opinion of RUS, would prevent successful implementation, or operation of the project; or

(3) Any other aspect of the applicant's proposal fails to adequately address any requirements of this subpart or contains inadequacies which would, in the opinion of RUS, undermine the ability of the project to meet the general purpose of this subpart or comply with policies of the DLT program contained in §1703.101.

(d) RUS will provide the applicant with a statement of any determinations made with regard to paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(3) of this section. The applicant will be provided 15 days from the date of RUS' letter to respond, provide clarification, or make any adjustments or corrections to the project. If, in the opinion of the Administrator, the applicant fails to adequately respond to any determinations or other findings made by the Administrator, the project will not be funded, and the applicant will be notified of this determination. If the applicant does not agree with this finding, an appeal may be filed in accordance with §1703.137.

§1703.136   Submission of applications.

(a) RUS will accept applications for a combination loan and grant submitted by RUS telecommunications General Field representatives (GFRs), by Rural Development State Directors, or by applicants themselves. Applications for a combination loan and grant under this subpart may be filed at any time and will be evaluated as received.

(b) Applications submitted to the State Director, Rural Development, in the State serving the headquarters of the project will be evaluated as they are submitted. All applicants must submit an original and two copies of a completed application. The applicant must also submit a copy of the application to the State government point of contact, if one has been designated for the State, at the same time it submits an application to the State Director. The State Director will:

(1) Review each application for completeness in accordance with §1703.134, and notify the applicant, within 15 working days of receiving the application, of the results of this review, acknowledging a complete application, or citing any information that is incomplete. To be considered for a combination loan and grant, the applicant must submit any additional information requested to complete the application within 15 working days of the date of the State Director's written response. If the applicant fails to submit such information, the application will be returned to the applicant.

(2) Within 30 days of the determination of a completed application in accordance with paragraph (b)(1) of this section, review the application to determine suitability for financial assistance in accordance with §1703.135, and other requirements of this subpart. Based on its review, the State Director will work with the applicant to resolve any questions or obtain any additional information. The applicant will be notified, in writing, of any additional information required to allow a financial assistance recommendation and will be provided a reasonable period of time to furnish the additional information.

(3) Based on the review in accordance with §1703.135 and other requirements of this subpart, make a preliminary determination of suitability for financial assistance. A combination loan and grant recommendation will be prepared by the State Director with concurrence of the RUS telecommunications GFR that addresses the provisions of sections §1703.134 and §1703.135 and other applicable requirements of this subpart.

(4) If the application is determined suitable for further consideration by RUS, forward an original and one copy of the application with a financial assistance recommendation, signed jointly, to the Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, Washington, DC. The applicant will be notified by letter of this action. Upon receipt of the application from the State Director, RUS will conduct a review of the application and the financial assistance recommendation. A final determination will be made within 15 days. If the Administrator determines that a combination loan and grant can be approved, the State Director will be notified and the State Director will notify the applicant. A combination loan and grant will be processed, approved, and serviced in accordance with §§1703.105 through 1703.112 of subpart D.

(5) If the State Director determines that the application is not suitable for further consideration by RUS, notify the applicant with the reasons for this determination. The applicant may appeal this determination pursuant to section §1703.137 of this subpart.

(c) Applications submitted by RUS telecommunications GFRs or directly by applicants will be evaluated as they are submitted. All applicants must submit an original and two copies of a completed application. The applicant must also submit a copy of the application to the State government point of contact, if one has been designated for the State, at the same time it submits an application to RUS. RUS will:

(1) Review each application for completeness in accordance with §1703.134, and notify the applicant, within 15 working days of receiving the application, of the results of this review, acknowledging a complete application, or citing any information that is incomplete. To be considered for a combination loan and grant assistance, the applicant must submit any additional information requested to complete the application within 15 working days of the date of the RUS written response. If the applicant fails to submit such information, the application will be returned to the applicant.

(2) Within 30 days of the determination of a completed application in accordance with paragraph (c)(1) of this section, review the application to determine suitability for financial assistance in accordance with §1703.135, and other requirements of this subpart. Based on its review, RUS will work with the applicant to resolve any questions or obtain any additional information. The applicant will be notified, in writing, of any additional information required to allow a financial assistance recommendation and will be provided a reasonable period of time to furnish the additional information.

(3) If the application is determined suitable for further consideration by RUS, conduct a review of the application and financial assistance recommendation. A final determination will be made within 15 days. If the Administrator determines that a combination loan and grant can be approved, the applicant will be notified. A combination loan and grant will be processed, approved, and serviced in accordance with §§1703.105 through 1703.112 of subpart D.

(4) If RUS determines that the application is not suitable for further consideration, notify the applicant with the reasons for this determination. The applicant will be able to appeal in accordance with §1703.137 of this subpart.

§1703.137   Appeals.

Any appeal must be made, in writing, within 10 days after the applicant is notified of the determination to deny the application. Appeals shall be submitted to the Administrator, RUS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., STOP 1590, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Thereafter, the Administrator will review the appeal to determine whether to sustain, reverse, or modify the original determination. Final determinations will be made after consideration of all appeals. The Administrator's determination will be final. A copy of the Administrator's decision will be furnished promptly to the applicant.

§§1703.138-1703.139   [Reserved]

Subpart G—Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan Program

Source: 64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999, unless otherwise noted.

§1703.140   Use of loan funds.

A loan may be used by eligible organizations as defined in §1703.103 for distance learning and telemedicine projects to finance 100 percent of the cost of approved purposes contained in §1703.141 provided that no financial assistance may exceed the maximum amount for the year in which the loan is made. Entities seeking a loan must be able to provide security and execute a note with a maturity period greater than one year. The following entities are eligible for loans under this subpart:

(a) Organizations as defined in §1703.103. If a RUS telecommunications borrower is seeking a loan, the borrower does not need to submit all of the financial security information required by §1703.144(d). The borrower's latest financial report (Form 479) filed with RUS and any additional information relevant to the project, as determined by RUS, will suffice;

(b) Any non-profit or for-profit entity, public or private entity, urban or rural institution, or rural educational broadcaster, which proposes to provide and receive distance learning and telemedicine services to carry out the purposes of this subpart; or

(c) Any entity that contracts with an eligible organization in paragraphs (a) or (b) of this section for constructing distance learning or telemedicine facilities for the purposes contained in §1703.141, except for those purposes in §1703.141(h).

(d) Applicants must meet the minimum eligibility requirement for determining the extent to which the project serves rural areas as contained in §1703.126(b)(2) (the applicant must receive at least 20 points to be eligible to receive financial assistance under this subpart).

[64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999]

§1703.141   Approved purposes for loans.

The following are approved purposes for loans:

(a) Acquiring, by lease or purchase, eligible equipment or facilities as defined in §1703.102;

(b) Acquiring instructional programming;

(c) Providing technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment, including any related software; developing instructional programming; providing engineering or environmental studies relating to the establishment or expansion of the phase of the project that is being financed with the loan (financial assistance for this purpose shall not exceed 10 percent of the requested financial assistance);

(d) Paying for medical or educational equipment and facilities which are shown to be necessary to implement the project, including vehicles utilizing distance learning and telemedicine technology to deliver educational and health care services. The applicant must demonstrate that such items are necessary to meet the purposes under this subpart and financial assistance for such equipment and facilities is not available from other sources at a cost which would not adversely affect the economic viability of the project;

(e) Providing links between teachers and students or medical professionals who are located at the same facility, provided that such facility receives or provides distance learning or telemedicine services as part of a distance learning or telemedicine network which meets the purposes of this subpart;

(f) Providing for site development and alteration of buildings in order to meet the purposes of this subpart. Loans for this purpose must be necessary and incidental to the total amount of financial assistance requested;

(g) Purchasing of land, buildings, or building construction, where such costs are demonstrated necessary to construct distance learning and telemedicine facilities. The applicant must demonstrate that funding from other sources is not available at a cost which does not adversely impact the economic viability of the project as determined by the Administrator. Financial assistance for this purpose must be necessary and incidental to the total amount of financial assistance requested;

(h) Acquiring of telecommunications transmission facilities provided that no telecommunications carrier will install such facilities under the Act or through other financial procedures within a reasonable time period and at a cost to the applicant that does not impact the economic viability of the project, as determined by the Administrator;

(i) Any project costs, except for salaries and administrative expenses, not included in paragraphs (a) through (h) of this section, incurred during the first two years of operation after the financial assistance has been approved. The applicant must show that financing such costs are necessary for the establishment or continued operation of the project and that financing is not available for such costs elsewhere, including from the applicant's financial resources. The Administrator will determine whether such costs will be financed based on information submitted by the applicant. Loans shall not be made exclusively to finance such costs, and financing for such costs will not exceed 20 percent of the loan provided to a project under this section; and

(j) All of the costs needed to provide distance learning broadcasting to rural areas. Loans may be used to cover the costs of facilities and end-user equipment dedicated to providing educational broadcasting to rural areas for distance learning purposes. If the facilities are not 100 percent dedicated to broadcasting, a portion of the financing may be used to fund such facilities based on a percentage of use factor that approximates the distance learning broadcasting portion of use.

[64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999]

§1703.142   Nonapproved purposes for loans.

(a) Loans made under this subpart will not be provided to pay the costs of recurring or operating expenses incurred after two years from approval of the project except for leases (see §1703.141).

(b) Loans made under this subpart will not be provided for any of the following costs:

(1) To purchase equipment that will be owned by the local exchange carrier or another telecommunications service provider, unless the applicant is the local exchange carrier or other telecommunications service provider;

(2) To duplicate facilities providing distance learning or telemedicine services in place or to reimburse the applicant or others for costs incurred prior to RUS' receipt of the completed application;

(3) For projects located in areas covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.); or

(4) To pay for salaries, wages, or administrative expenses; or

(5) For any purpose that the Administrator has not specifically approved.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in §1703.112, funds shall not be used to finance a project, in part, when the success of the project is dependent upon the receipt of additional financial assistance under this subpart G or is dependent upon the receipt of other funding that is not assured.

[64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999]

§1703.143   Maximum and minimum amounts.

Applications for loans under this subpart will be subject to limitations on the proposed amount of loans. The Administrator will establish the maximum amount of a loan available to an applicant under this subpart, by publishing notice of the maximum amount in the Federal Register before the opening of the application window. The minimum amount of a loan is $50,000.

§1703.144   Completed application.

The following items are required to be submitted in support of an application for a loan:

(a) An application for federal assistance: A completed standard form 424.

(b) An executive summary of the project. The applicant must provide RUS with a general project overview that addresses each of the following 9 categories:

(1) A description of why the project is needed;

(2) An explanation of how the applicant will address the need (see paragraph (b)(1) of this section), why the applicant requires financial assistance, the types of educational or medical services to be offered by the project, and the benefits to the rural residents;

(3) A description of the applicant, documenting eligibility in accordance with §1703.103;

(4) An explanation of the total project cost including a breakdown of the loan required and the source of funding, if applicable, for the remainder of the project;

(5) A statement specifying whether the project provides predominantly distance learning or telemedicine services as defined in §1703.102. If the project provides both distance learning and telemedicine services, the applicant must identify the predominant use of the system;

(6) A general overview of the telecommunications system to be developed, including the types of equipment, technologies, and facilities used;

(7) A description of the participating hubs and end user sites and the number of rural residents which will be served by the project at each end user site;

(8) A certification by the applicant that facilities funded by a loan do not duplicate adequate established telemedicine or distance learning services.

(9) A listing of the location of each end user site (city, town, village, borough, or rural area plus the State).

(c) A scope of work. The scope of work must include, at a minimum:

(1) The specific activities to be performed under the project;

(2) Who will carry out the activities;

(3) The time-frames for accomplishing the project objectives and activities; and

(4) A budget for capital expenditures reflecting the line item costs for the loan and any other sources of funds for the project.

(d) Financial information. The applicant must show its financial ability to complete the project; show project feasibility; and provide evidence that it can execute a note for a loan for a maturity period greater than one year. For educational institutions participating in a project application (including all members of a consortium), the financial data must reflect revenue and expense reports and balance sheet reports, reflecting net worth, for the most recent annual reporting period preceding the date of the application. For medical institutions participating in a project application (including all members of a consortium), the financial data must include income statement and balance sheet reports, reflecting net worth, for the most recent completed fiscal year preceding the date of the application. When the applicant is a partnership, company, corporation, or other entity, current balance sheets, reflecting net worth, are needed from each of the entities that has at least a 20 percent interest in such partnership, company, corporation or other entity. When the applicant is a consortium, a current balance sheet, reflecting net worth, is needed from each member of the consortium and from each of the entities that has at least a 20 percent interest in such member of the consortium.

(1) Applicants must include sufficient pro-forma financial data which adequately reflects the financial capability of project participants and the project as a whole to continue a sustainable project for a minimum of 10 years and repay the requested loan. This documentation should include sources of sufficient income or revenues to pay operating expenses including telecommunications access and toll charges, system maintenance, salaries, training, and any other general operating expenses, provide for replacement of depreciable items, and show repayment of interest and principal for the loan.

(2) A list of property which will be used as collateral to secure repayment of the proposed loan. The applicant shall purchase and own collateral that secures the loan free from liens or security interests and take all actions necessary to perfect a first lien in the collateral that secures the loan. RUS will consider as adequate security a loan guarantee by a telecommunications or electric borrower or by another qualified party. Additional forms of security, including letters of credit, real estate, or any other items will be considered. RUS will determine the adequacy of the security offered.

(3) As applicable, a depreciation schedule covering all assets of the project. Those assets for which a loan is being requested should be clearly indicated.

(4) For each hub and end user site, the applicant must identify and provide reasonable evidence of each source of revenue. If the projection relies on cost sharing arrangements among hub and end user sites, the applicant must provide evidence of agreements made among project participants.

(5) For applicants eligible under §1703.103(a)(3), an explanation of the economic analysis justifying the rate structure to ensure that the benefit, including cost saving, of the financial assistance is passed through to the other persons receiving telemedicine or distance learning services.

(e) A statement of experience. The applicant must provide a written narrative (not exceeding three single spaced pages) describing its demonstrated capability and experience, if any, in operating an educational or health care endeavor and any project similar to the project. Experience in a similar project is desirable but not required.

(f) A telecommunications system plan. A telecommunications system plan, consisting of the following (the items in paragraphs (f)(4) and (f)(5) of this section are required only when the applicant is requesting a loan for telecommunications transmission facilities):

(1) The capabilities of the telecommunications terminal equipment, including a description of the specific equipment which will be used to deliver the proposed service. The applicant must document discussions with various technical sources which could include consultants, engineers, product vendors, or internal technical experts, provide detailed cost estimates for operating and maintaining the end user equipment and provide evidence that alternative equipment and technologies were evaluated.

(2) A listing of the proposed purchases or leases of telecommunications terminal equipment, telecommunications transmission facilities, data terminal equipment, interactive video equipment, computer hardware and software systems, and components that process data for transmission via telecommunications, computer network components, communication satellite ground station equipment, or any other elements of the telecommunications system designed to further the purposes of this subpart, that the applicant intends to build or fund using a loan.

(3) A description of the consultations with the appropriate telecommunications carriers (including other interexchange carriers, cable television operators, enhanced service providers, providers of satellite services, and telecommunications equipment manufacturers and distributors) and the anticipated role of such providers in the proposed telecommunications system.

(4) Results of discussions with local exchange carriers serving the project area addressing the concerns contained in §1703.141(h).

(5) The capabilities of the telecommunications transmission facilities, including bandwidth, networking topology, switching, multiplexing, standards, and protocols for intra-networking and open systems architecture (the ability to effectively communicate with other networks). In addition, the applicant must explain the manner in which the transmission facilities will deliver the proposed services. For example, for medical diagnostics, the applicant might indicate whether or not a guest or other diagnosticians can join the network from locations off the network. For educational services, indicate whether or not all hub and end-user sites are able to simultaneously hear in real-time and see each other or the instructional material in real-time. The applicant must include detailed cost estimates for operating and maintaining the network, and include evidence that alternative delivery methods and systems were evaluated.

(g) Compliance with other Federal statutes. The applicant must provide evidence of compliance with other Federal statutes and regulations including, but not limited to the following:

(1) E.O. 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, as amended by E.O. 11375 and as supplemented by regulations contained in 41 CFR part 60;

(2) Architectural barriers;

(3) Flood hazard area precautions;

(4) Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970;

(5) Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 (41 U.S.C. 701);

(6) E.O.s 12549 and 12689, Debarment and Suspension;

(7) Byrd Anti-Lobbying Amendment (31 U.S.C. 1352).

(h) Environmental impact and historic preservation. (1) The applicant must provide details of the project's impact on the environment and historic preservation. Loans made under this part are subject to 7 CFR part 1794 which contains RUS' policies and procedures for implementing a variety of Federal statutes, regulations, and executive orders generally pertaining to the protection of the quality of the human environment that are listed in 7 CFR 1794.1. The application shall contain a separate section entitled “Environmental Impact of the Project.”

(2) The applicant may use the “Environmental Questionnaire,” available from RUS, to assist in complying with the requirements of this section.

(i) Evidence of legal authority and existence. The applicant must provide evidence of its legal existence and authority to enter into debt with RUS and perform the activities proposed under the loan application.

(j) Federal debt certification. The applicants must provide a certification that it is not delinquent on any obligation owed to the government (7 CFR parts 3016 and 3019).

(k) Supplemental information. The applicant should provide any additional information it considers relevant to the project and likely to be helpful in determining the extent to which the project would further the purposes of this subpart.

(l) Additional information required by RUS. The applicant must provide any additional information RUS determines is necessary to adequately evaluate the application. Modifications or changes, including changes in the loan amount requested, may be requested in any project described in an application submitted under this subpart.

[64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 25423, May 12, 1999]

§1703.145   Application selection provisions.

(a) Loans will be approved based on availability of funds, the financial feasibility of the project in accordance with §1703.144(d), the services to be provided which demonstrate that the project meets the general requirements of this subpart, the design of the project; costs; location; and other characteristics of the application.

(b) RUS will determine, from the information submitted with each application for a loan, whether the application achieves sufficient priority, based on the criteria set forth in the 1996 Act, to receive a loan from funds available for the fiscal year. If such priority is achieved, RUS will process the loan application on a first-in, first-out basis, provided that the total amount of applications on-hand for loans does not exceed 90 percent of the total loan funding available for the fiscal year. At such time as the total amount of applications eligible for loans, if such applications were approved, exceeds 90 percent of amount of loan funding available, RUS will process the remaining applications using the evaluation criteria set forth in §1703.126.

(c) A loan will not be approved if it is determined that:

(1) The applicant's proposal does not indicate financial feasibility, or is not adequately secured in accordance with the requirements of §1703.144(d);

(2) The applicant's proposal indicates technical flaws, which, in the opinion of RUS, would prevent successful implementation, or operation of the project; or

(3) Any other aspect of the applicant's proposal fails to adequately address any requirements of this subpart or contains inadequacies which would, in the opinion of RUS, undermine the ability of the project to meet the general purpose of this subpart or comply with policies of the DLT program contained in §1703.101.

(d) RUS will provide the applicant with a statement of any determinations made with regard to paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(3) of this section. The applicant will be provided 15 days from the date of the RUS letter to respond, provide clarification, or make any adjustments or corrections to the project. If, in the opinion of the Administrator, the applicant fails to adequately respond to any determinations or other findings made by the Administrator, the loan will not be approved, and the applicant will be notified of this determination. If the applicant does not agree with this finding an appeal may be filed in accordance with §1703.147.

[64 FR 14369, Mar. 25, 1999; 64 FR 25422, May 12, 1999]

§1703.146   Submission of applications.

(a) RUS will accept applications for loans submitted by RUS telecommunications General Field Representatives (GFRs), by Rural Development State Directors, or by applicants themselves. Applications for loans under this subpart may be filed at any time and will be evaluated as received on a non-competitive basis.

(b) Applications submitted to the State Director, Rural Development, in the State serving the headquarters of the project will be evaluated as they are submitted. All applicants must submit an original and two copies of a completed application. The applicant must also submit a copy of the application to the State government point of contact, if one has been designated for the State, at the same time it submits an application to the State Director. The State Director will:

(1) Review each application for completeness in accordance with §1703.144, and notify the applicant, within 15 working days of receiving the application, of the results of this review, acknowledging a complete application, or citing any information that is incomplete. To be considered for a loan, the applicant must submit any additional information requested to complete the application within 15 working days of the date of the State Director's written response. If the applicant fails to submit such information, the application will be returned to the applicant.

(2) Within 30 days of the determination of a completed application in accordance with paragraph (b)(1) of this section, review the application to determine suitability for financial assistance in accordance with §1703.145, and other requirements of this subpart. Based on its review, the State Director will work with the applicant to resolve any questions or obtain any additional information. The applicant will be notified, in writing, of any additional information required to allow a financial assistance recommendation and will be provided a reasonable period of time to furnish the additional information.

(3) Based on the review in accordance with §1703.145 and other requirements of this subpart, make a preliminary determination of suitability for financial assistance. A loan recommendation will be prepared by the State Director with concurrence of the RUS telecommunications GFR that addresses the provisions of §§1703.144 and 1703.145 and other applicable requirements of this subpart.

(4) If the application is determined suitable for further consideration by RUS, forward an original and one copy of the application with a loan recommendation, signed jointly, to the Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, Washington DC. The applicant will be notified by letter of this action. Upon receipt of the application from the State Director, RUS will conduct a cursory review of the application and the recommendation. A final determination will be made within 15 days. If the Administrator determines that a loan can be approved, the State Director will be notified and the State Director will notify the applicant. Applications for loans will be processed, and approved loans serviced, in accordance with §§1703.105 through 1703.112.

(5) If the State Director determines that the application is not suitable for further consideration by RUS, notify the applicant with the reasons for this determination. The applicant will be offered appeal rights in accordance with §1703.147.

(c) Applications submitted by RUS telecommunications GFRs or directly by applicants will be evaluated as they are submitted. All applicants must submit an original and two copies of a completed application. The applicant must also submit a copy of the application to the State government point of contact, if one has been designated for the State, at the same time it submits an application to the RUS. RUS will:

(1) Review each application for completeness in accordance with §1703.144, and notify the applicant, within 15 working days of receiving the application, of the results of this review, acknowledging a complete application, or citing any information that is incomplete. To be considered for a loan, the applicant must submit any additional information requested to complete the application within 15 working days of the date of the RUS written response. If the applicant fails to submit such information, the application will be returned to the applicant.

(2) Within 30 days of the determination of a completed application in accordance with paragraph (c)(1) of this section, review the application to determine suitability for financial assistance in accordance with this subpart. Based on its review, RUS will work with the applicant to resolve any questions or obtain any additional information. The applicant will be notified, in writing, of any additional information required to allow a financial assistance recommendation and will be provided a reasonable period of time to furnish the additional information.

(3) If the application is determined suitable for further consideration by RUS, conduct a review of the application and financial assistance recommendation. A final determination will be made within 15 days. If the Administrator determines that a loan can be approved, the applicant will be notified. Applications will be processed, and approved loans serviced, in accordance with §§1703.105 through 1703.112 of subpart D.

(4) If RUS determines that the application is not suitable for further consideration, notify the applicant with the reasons for this determination. The applicant will be offered appeal rights in accordance with §1703.147 of this subpart.

§1703.147   Appeals.

Any appeal must be made, in writing, within 10 days after the applicant is notified of the determination to deny the application. Appeals shall be submitted to the Administrator, RUS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., STOP 1590, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Thereafter, the Administrator will review the appeal to determine whether to sustain, reverse, or modify the original determination. Final determinations will be made after consideration of all appeals. The Administrator's determination will be final. A copy of the Administrator's decision will be furnished promptly to the applicant.

Subpart H—Deferments of RUS Loan Payments for Rural Development Projects

Source: 58 FR 21639, Apr. 23, 1993, unless otherwise noted. Redesignated at 64 FR 14356, Mar. 25, 1999.

§1703.300   Purpose.

This subpart E sets forth RUS's policies and procedures for making loan deferments of principal and interest payments on direct loans or insured loans made for electric or telephone purposes, but not for loans made for rural economic development purposes, in accordance with subsection (b) of section 12 of the RE Act. Loan deferments are provided for the purpose of promoting rural development opportunities.

§1703.301   Policy.

It is RUS's policy to encourage borrowers to invest in and promote rural development and rural job creation projects that are based on sound economic and financial analyses. Borrowers are encouraged to use this program to promote economic, business and community development projects that will benefit rural areas.

§1703.302   Definitions and rules of construction.

(a) Definitions. For the purpose of this subpart, the following terms will have the following meanings:1

Administrator means the Administrator of RUS.

Borrower means any organization which has an outstanding direct loan or insured loan made by RUS for the provision of electric or telephone service.

Cushion of credit payment means a voluntary unscheduled payment on an RUS note made after October 1, 1987, credited to the cushion of credit account of a borrower.

Deferment means a re-amortization of a payment of principal and/or interest on an RUS direct loan or insured loan for over either a 5- or 10 year period, with the first payment beginning on the date of the deferment.

Direct loan means a loan that is made by the Administrator pursuant to section 4 or section 201 of the RE Act (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.) for the provision of electric or telephone service in rural areas and does not include a loan made to promote economic development in rural areas.

Financially distressed borrower means an RUS-financed borrower determined by the Administrator to be either:

(i) In default or near default on interest or principal payments due on loans made or guaranteed under the RE Act;

(ii) A borrower that was in default or near default, but is currently participating in a workout or debt restructuring plan with RUS; or

(iii) Experiencing a financial hardship.

Insured loan means a loan that is made, held, and serviced by the Administrator, and sold and insured by the Administrator, pursuant to Section 305 of the RE Act (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.) for the provision of electric or telephone service in rural areas and does not include a loan made to promote economic development in rural areas.

Job creation means the creation of jobs in rural areas, or in close enough proximity to rural areas so that it is likely that the majority of the jobs created will be held by residents of rural areas.

Project means a rural development project that a borrower proposes and the Administrator approves as qualifying under this subpart.

RE Act means the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, as amended (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.).

REA means the Rural Electrification Administration formerly an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and predecessor agency to RUS with respect to administering certain electric and telephone loan programs.

RTB means the Rural Telephone Bank (telephone bank), a body corporate and an instrumentality of the United States, that obtains supplemental funds from non-Federal sources and utilizes them in making loans, operating on a self-sustaining basis to the extent practicable (section 401, RE Act).

RUS means the Rural Utilities Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture established pursuant to Section 232 of the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-354, 108 Stat. 3178), successor to REA with respect to administering certain electric and telephone programs. See 7 CFR 1700.1.

Technical assistance means market research, product or service improvement, feasibility studies, environmental studies, and similar activities that benefit rural development or rural job creation projects.

(b) Rules of construction. Unless the context otherwise indicates; “includes” and “including” are not limiting, and “or” is not exclusive. The terms defined in §1703.302(a) include both the plural and the singular.

[58 FR 21639, Apr. 23, 1993, as amended at 59 FR 66440, Dec. 27, 1994]

§1703.303   Eligibility criteria for deferment of loan payments.

The deferment of loan payments may be granted to any borrower that is not financially distressed, delinquent on any Federal debt, or in bankruptcy proceedings. However, the deferment of loan payments will not be granted to a borrower during any period in which the Administrator has determined that no additional financial assistance of any nature should be provided to the borrower pursuant to any provision of the RE Act. The determination to suspend eligibility for the deferment of loan payments under this subpart will be based on:

(a) The borrower's demonstrated unwillingness to exercise diligence in repaying loans made by RUS or RTB or guaranteed by RUS that results in the Administrator being unable to find that such loans, would be repaid within the time agreed; or

(b) The borrower's demonstrated unwillingness to meet the requirements in RUS's or RTB's legal documents or regulations.

§1703.304   Restrictions on the deferment of loan payments.

(a) The deferment must not impair the security of any loans made RUS or RTB, or guaranteed by RUS, pursuant to the RE Act.

(b) At no point in time may the amount of the debt service payments deferred exceed 50 percent of the total cost of a community, business, or economic development project for which a deferment is provided.

(c) A borrower may defer debt service payments only in an amount equal to the investment made by such borrower in a rural development project. The investment must not be made from:

(1) Proceeds of loans made or guaranteed pursuant to the RE Act, or grants made pursuant to the RE Act or section 2331 through section 2335A of the Rural Economic Development Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 950aaa et seq.);

(2) Funds necessary to make timely payments of principal and interest on loans made, guaranteed or lien accommodated pursuant to the RE Act;

(3) Insurance proceeds from mortgaged property;

(4) Damage awards and sale proceeds resulting from eminent domain and similar proceedings involving mortgaged property;

(5) Sale proceeds from mortgaged property sales requiring specific Administrator approval; and

(6) Funds which are restricted by RUS or RTB loan instruments to be held in trust for the Government or to be held for any other specific purpose.

(d) Any investment made in a rural development project prior to the date of the application for a deferment based on such project cannot be used to satisfy the requirements of this section.

§1703.305   Requirements for deferment of loan payments.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, the borrower must make a cushion of credit payment equal to the amount of the payment deferred and subject to the following rules:

(1) Cushion of credit payments made prior to the date that an application for deferral has been approved by RUS cannot be used to satisfy the requirements of this section;

(2) Once a cushion of credit payment has been made to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, it must remain on deposit in the cushion of credit account on the date of the deferral or the deferral will not take place; and

(3) The cushion of credit payment must be received by RUS on the date the payment being deferred is due, or within 30 days prior to this date.

(b) A borrower may elect to consolidate in one application filed pursuant to §1703.311, all of the related deferrals it wishes to receive in a twelve month period following application approval. In such a case, the requirement contained in paragraph (a)(1) of this section may alternatively be satisfied by depositing an amount equal to the aggregate deferrals covered by such application into the cushion of credit account at the time the first cushion of credit payment is due under paragraph (a)(1) of this section.

§1703.306   Limitation on funds derived from the deferment of loan payments.

Funds derived from the deferment of loan payments will not be used:

(a) To fund or assist projects which would, in the judgement of the Administrator, create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest. The borrower must disclose to the Administrator information regarding any potential conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest;

(b) For any purpose not reasonably related to the project as determined by the Administrator;

(c) To transfer existing employment or business activities from one area to another; or

(d) For the borrower's electric or telephone operations, nor for any operations affiliated with the borrower unless the Administrator has specifically informed the borrower in writing that the affiliated operations are part of the approved purposes.

§1703.307   Uses of the deferments of loan payments.

The deferment of loan payments will be made to enable the borrower to provide funding and assistance for rural development and job creation projects. This includes, but is not limited to, the borrower providing financing to local businesses, community development assistance, technical assistance to businesses, and other community, business, or economic development projects that will benefit rural areas.

§1703.308   Amount of deferment funds available.

(a) The total amount of deferments made available for each fiscal year under this program will not exceed 3 percent of the total payments due during fiscal year 1993 from all borrowers on direct loans and insured loans made under the RE Act. For each subsequent fiscal year after 1993, the total amount of deferments will not exceed 5 percent of the total payments due for the year from all borrowers on direct loans and insured loans.

(b) The total amount of annual deferments are subject to limitations established by appropriations Acts.

§1703.309   Terms of repayment of deferred loan payments.

(a) Deferments made to enable the borrower to provide financing to local businesses will be repaid over a period of 60 months, in equal installments, with payments beginning on the date of the deferment, and continuing in such a manner until the total amount of the deferment is repaid. The deferment payments will be made on either a monthly or quarterly basis depending on the existing repayment terms of the direct loan or insured loan being deferred. The deferment will not accrue interest.

(b) In the case of deferments made to enable the borrower to provide community development assistance, technical assistance to businesses, and for other community, business, or economic development projects not included in paragraph (a) of this section, the deferment will be repaid over a period of 120 months, in equal installments, with payments beginning on the date of the deferment and continuing in such a manner until the total amount of the deferment is repaid. The deferment payments will be made on either a monthly or quarterly basis depending on the existing repayment terms of the direct loan or insured loan being deferred. The deferment will not accrue interest.

(c) The maturity date of a loan may not be extended as a result of a deferment.

(d) If the required payment is not made by the borrower or received by the Administrator when due, the Administrator will reduce the borrower's cushion of credit account established under this subpart in an amount equal to the deferment payment required.

(e) The balance in a borrower's cushion of credit account shall not be reduced by the borrower below the level of the unpaid balance of the payment deferred.

§1703.310   Environmental considerations.

Prospective recipients of funds received from the deferment of loan payments are encouraged to consider the potential environmental impact of their proposed projects at the earliest planning stage and plan development in a manner that reduces, to the extent practicable, the potential to affect the quality of the human environment adversely.

§1703.311   Application procedures for deferment of loan payments.

(a) A borrower applying for a deferment must:

(1) Submit a certified board resolution to the Administrator requesting a deferment of principal and interest. The resolution must:

(i) Be signed by the president or vice president of the borrower;

(ii) Contain information on the total amount of deferment requested for each specific project;

(iii) Contain information on the type of project and the length of deferment requested as defined in §1703.309; and

(iv) Specify which officer of the borrower has been given the authority to certify to those matters required in this section;

(2) Submit certification by the appropriate officer to the Administrator that the proposed project will not violate the limitations set forth in §1703.306 and disclose all information regarding any potential conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest that would allow the Administrator to make an informed decision;

(3) Submit certification by the appropriate officer to the Administrator that an investment in the rural development project will be made by the borrower in an amount equal to the deferred debt service payment;

(4) Submit certification by the appropriate officer to the Administrator that the amount of the deferment will not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of the project for which the deferment is provided;

(5) Submit certification by the appropriate officer to the Administrator that it will make a cushion of credit payment necessary to satisfy the requirement of §1703.305(a);

(6) Submit certification by the appropriate officer to the Administrator that it will comply with §1703.313 and provide documentation showing that its total investments, including the proposed investment, will not exceed the investment limitations specified in 7 CFR part 1717, Subpart N, Investments, Loans and Guarantees by Electric Borrowers, or 7 CFR Part 1744, Post Loan Policies and Procedures Common to Guaranteed and Insured Loans. The documentation must provide a list of each rural development project the borrower has invested in to date, including the investment amounts;

(7) Submit to the Administrator written identification of the direct loan(s) and/or insured loan(s) for which payments are to be deferred;

(8) Submit to the Administrator a written narrative which contains information regarding the proposed rural development or job creation project such as the manner in which the project will promote community, business, or economic development in rural areas, the nature of the project, its location, the primary beneficiaries, and, if applicable, the number and type of jobs to be created; and

(9) Submit to the Administrator a letter of approval from the state regulatory authority, if applicable, granting its approval for the borrower to defer direct loan payment(s) and/or insured loan payment(s) and invest the amount in a rural development project.

(b) The Administrator reserves the right to determine that special circumstances require additional data from borrowers before acting on a deferment. The Administrator also reserves the right to require, as a condition of approving a loan payment deferment pursuant to this subpart, that the borrower execute and deliver any amendments or supplements to its loan documents that may be necessary or appropriate to achieve the purposes outlined in §1703.300.

(c) The Administrator will decide whether the borrower is eligible for the deferment and will notify the borrower of the decision.

§1703.312   RUS review requirements.

Borrowers shall ensure that funds are invested in the rural development project as approved by RUS. The Administrator reserves the right to review the books and copy records of borrowers receiving loan payment deferments as necessary to ensure that the investments in the rural development project are in accordance with this subpart and the representations and purposes stated in the borrower's completed application. If an audit discloses that the amount deferred was not used for the purposes stated in the completed application, the borrower shall be required to promptly repay the amount deferred and the benefits of the deferment to the borrower will be recaptured by RUS. The borrower is responsible for ensuring that disbursements and expenditures of funds covering the investment in the rural development project are properly supported with certifications, invoices, contracts, bills of sale, cancelled checks, or any other forms of evidence determined appropriate by the Administrator and that such supporting material is available at the borrower's premises for review by the RUS field accountant, borrower's certified public accountant, the Office of Inspector General, the General Accounting Office and any other accountant conducting an audit of the borrower's financial statements for this rural development program.

§1703.313   Compliance with other regulations.

(a) Investments in a rural economic development project made by an electric borrower under this subpart are subject to the provisions of 7 CFR part 1717, Subpart N, Investments, Loans and Guarantees by Electric Borrowers.

(b) Investments in a rural economic development project made by a telephone borrower under this subpart are subject to the provisions of 7 CFR Part 1744, Post Loan Policies and Procedures Common to Guaranteed and Insured Loans.



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