Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the Untied States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be granting $700 million to “help farmworkers and meatpacking workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs.” The main goal of the grant is to relieve agriculture workers from expenses suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including reasonable and necessary personal, family, and living expenses.
In addition to these, the package is also intended to cover personal protective equipment, dependent care, and other expenses from quarantine and testing.
$20 million of the $700 million grant is set to go towards a pilot program that will support agriculture workers and try out methods of reaching them in the future. The grant is a part of the current USDA Administration’s effort to “revitalize the economy and provide relief to historically undeserved communities.”
In the press release on Tuesday, Secretary Vilsack explained that agriculture workers “deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services.”
The decision to grant agriculture workers aid has been applauded by both the UFW Foundation and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union. UFCW president Marc Perrone said regarding the announcement, “America’s meatpacking and grocery workers have been on the frontlines since the pandemic began… This new USDA grant program recognizes the incredible service and sacrifices of our country’s essential food workers by providing the critical financial support they need.”
The funding will be made available to agriculture workers through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program. Applications for the programs will be made available in the early fall, and funds will be disbursed in amounts ranging from $5 million to $50 million.