ROYAL OAKS—Congressman Jimmy Panetta was on the Central Coast Thursday, touting two pandemic assistance programs he helped pass that will benefit agriculture workers and the industries that employ them.
The Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program will provide $650 million in grants to food processors, distributors, farmers markets and producers to respond to coronavirus, including for measures to protect workers against Covid-19.
The Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program will provide $700 million in relief to farmworkers, meatpacking workers and front-line grocery workers for expenses incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, farmworkers continued to work very hard for our nation’s food security,” Panetta said during a tour of JSM Organics in Royal Oaks. “Unfortunately, that difficult work made them and their families extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. As Congress did its job during the pandemic to provide the necessary relief funding to our communities, it was my job to ensure that funding included protections for farmworkers. I’m proud to partner with the UFW Foundation and UDSA leadership today to announce the results of our work at the federal level with two grant programs that will provide protections to farmworkers at the local level.”
Panetta also spoke at the United Farm Workers Foundation in Salinas.
The money is intended to defray costs for “reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Panetta’s office stated in a press release.
This includes costs for personal protective equipment, dependent care and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the pandemic.
Grant recipients will reimburse workers for up to $600 for expenses incurred.
The money will be managed and dispersed through the United States Department of Agriculture.
“As the economy continues to gain strength after the Biden Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts, USDA is working with agricultural and food businesses to ensure they have the resources and tools to thrive in 2021 and beyond,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Financial relief to these essential producers, distributors, processors and other small agricultural businesses is a critical tool to get our food system back on track.”
The grants align with President Joe Biden’s efforts to revitalize the economy and provide relief to historically underserved communities, Panetta’s office said.