The COVID-19 pandemic has made it far more public how very important sure jobs are, specifically these in meals manufacturing and gross sales: farmworkers, meatpacking plant employees and grocery retailer workers.
These employees, along with working for typically low wages in typically extremely harmful situations—and typically each—have been pressured to work straight by the pandemic, as they have been declared important employees. Typically at their very own expense, these employees needed to procure protecting gear, virus testing and childcare. This week, USDA chief Tom Vilsack introduced a grant program to defray a few of these prices.
In accordance with a press launch from the USDA, the funding will encompass some $700 million, and it will likely be known as the Farm and Food Workers Reduction grant program. That cash will come out of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a large stimulus and spending program designed to supply cash for each COVID-19 aid and for common authorities providers.
Varied state businesses, nonprofits and tribal teams will be capable to apply for assist starting from $5 to $50 million, which can go to farmworkers and meatpacking plant employees. However the necessities particularly say that this cash is to make up for prices these employees incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with childcare and the acquisition of protecting gear. Childcare prices have been fairly excessive for these employees, as many agricultural employees certified as important and couldn’t work remotely. Particular person employees can obtain as much as $600.
There are some added quirks to this funding that go together with the Biden administration’s curiosity in offering funding to underserved communities. Round $20 million will go to a pilot program to determine how you can compensate grocery retailer employees, the primary time such a program has been undertaken. Some cities and particular person employers supplied hazard pay, usually within the type of a short lived elevate, however not in a widespread or constant method.
The grants may even require candidates “to show connectedness to hard-to-reach worker populations either directly or in partnerships with other local organizations.” These populations embrace employees who don’t communicate English, members of minority teams which might be reluctant to use for assist (or who’ve, by numerous bits of institutionalized racism, been excluded), unhoused employees and many extra who’ve fallen by the cracks.
This cash can definitely assist, though it’ll require a while and crimson tape. Organizations must apply, then these organizations must discover and help particular person employees. And the specifics of reimbursement for COVID-19 prices, fairly than, say, the next minimal wage, make this inherently a short-term response. However a short-term response is healthier than no response.