Brown Announces $30 Million To Protect Ag Workers From COVID-19

Photo: April Clayton

On Friday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a $30 million investment to protect agricultural workers and secure Oregon’s food supply chain. Brown’s office says the funds will work to support continuity of harvests during the pandemic, while trying to reduce the potential for illness associated with coronavirus. The Governor added these efforts will also enhance the public health of the state.

What will the funds be used for?

  • The distribution of 1 million face masks and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, which took place statewide last week.
  • $14 million for mitigation of COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Quarantine Fund for recovering farmworkers
  • Deployment of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Community-based outreach and prevention grants to community based organizations serving Migrant Seasonal Farmworkers to conduct field education, outreach and engagement activities
  • $10 million for agriculture workforce housing
  • Assistance program for hotel and alternative housing reimbursements to agricultural producers in response to Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA) temporary rules that encourages physical distancing and supports additional housing capacity in response to COVID-19
  • Applications will be available starting June 10, 2020, with eligible reimbursement back to May 11, 2020, the effective date of the OR-OSHA temporary rule
  • $5 million for additional COVID-19 field sanitation
  • Reimbursement for field sanitation, including hand-washing stations and portable restrooms, in response to OR-OSHA temporary rules.  Applications will be available starting June 10th with eligible reimbursement back to June 1st the effective date of the OSHA temporary rule
  • $1 million to support additional physical distancing requirements for employer-provided transportation in response to OSHA temporary rules.  Applications will be available starting June 10, 2020, with eligible reimbursement back to June 1, 2020, the effective date of the OSHA temporary rule

Separate from this $30 million investment, Oregon Housing and Community Services will also direct up to $3.5 million of allocated funding for safe shelter alternatives, which can include hotel and motel vouchers for vulnerable populations including people experiencing homelessness and farmworkers, whose living situations and underlying health conditions make them particularly susceptible to severe consequences from exposure to COVID-19. OHCS is working in partnership with the Oregon Human Development Corporation to ensure these funds meet the needs of agricultural workers and their families, and vulnerable populations.

“Oregon’s agricultural workers are on the frontlines during this COVID-19 crisis, working to provide food for Oregon families,” said Governor Kate Brown. “This investment will bring essential resources to agricultural producers and farmworkers, providing critical resources to keep workers safe and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks while protecting the food supply chain.”

“We are concerned about the health and welfare of our agricultural and farmworker communities, their families, and the security of our food supply,” said Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor. “Together growers, workers, and public partners all play important roles in keeping our farms and ranches safe. As Oregon’s 2020 harvest season begins we are proud to be a part of the effort to protect an industry that supports nearly 720,000 jobs and more than $34 billion in wages. That is why it is critical our agricultural industry and its diverse community of workers have the resources they need to stay healthy.”

“By addressing agricultural workforce housing, COVID-19 sanitation and COVID-19 mitigation outbreaks in this package, Oregon is helping farmers keep workers safe and supporting the state’s most important economic sector,” said Mike Doke, Executive Director of Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers.

“Times were tough in agriculture before the pandemic, and they are much tougher now,” said Dave Dillion, Executive Director of Oregon Farm Bureau. “This assistance package is a very important step toward helping Oregon’s farm and ranch families meet the new standards OR-OSHA has put in place for this growing season.”

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