WASHINGTON (CBS19 NEWS) — Millions of dollars in grant funding are available to help farmworkers and meatpacking workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs.
According to a release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $700 million in competitive grant funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program.
In order to recognize the role and costs borne by grocery workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, $20 million of this funding has been set aside for at least one pilot program to support grocery workers.
This funding comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Build Back Better efforts.
The release says this program will provide relief for expenses incurred due to the pandemic, with the intention of defraying costs for necessary personal, family or living expenses related to the pandemic.
This can include personal protective equipment, dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing.
Applications will be accepted in the early fall for 60 days, with additional information and assistance available when the application period opens.
“As we celebrate the social and economic achievements of our nation’s workers on Labor Day, we recognize that our farmworkers, meat packing workers, and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic,” said Vilsack. “They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services.”
The release says funds will be awarded through grants to state agencies, Tribal entities and nonprofits that serve farmworkers and meatpacking workers. These grants can range from $5 million to $50 million.
Eligible entities will need to demonstrate the capacity to reimburse farmworkers and meatpacking workers for up to $600 for expenses they incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
USDA is encouraging grant applications demonstrating trusted communications networks with farmworkers, meatpacking workers and grocery workers as well as strong financial controls.
Applicants have to show connectedness to hard-to-reach worker populations either directly or through partnerships with local organizations.
The release says they should also be able to describe how they will work with smaller organizations to facilitate financial relief to these populations.
Once the application period opens, the Agricultural Marketing Service will be offering technical assistance, and grant management specialists will be able to assist with questions.
Applications will need to be submitted online here.
USDA is planning to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen supply chains across the country based on lessons learned from the pandemic and the resulting supply disruptions.
This effort aims to strengthen the U.S. food system, create market opportunities, tackle climate change, help communities that may have been left behind, and support jobs through the supply chain.