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US greenlights $700 million in grants for COVID-19-affected farm and food workers

10 September 2021
USDA

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $700 million in competitive grand funding will be available to help farmers and meat plant workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs.

The grant funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program. The announcement was made in press call with United Farm Workers Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres and United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone.

To recognize the essential role and costs borne by front-line grocery workers, $20 million of this amount has been set aside for at least one pilot program to support grocery workers and test options for reaching them in the future. The new program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and is part of USDA’s Build Back Better efforts to respond and recover from the pandemic.

The program will provide relief to farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief is intended to defray costs for reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This aligns with the Administration’s efforts to revitalize the economy and provide relief to historically underserved communities. The Request for Application (RFA) will be announced in early Fall and will be open for 60 days. Additional information and technical assistance for applying to these grants and program updates will be provided by USDA 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 Secretary 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. This grant program is another component of this Administration’s efforts to ensure assistance to alleviate the effects of the pandemic is distributed to those who need it most.”

“This Labor Day, let us not forget the sacrifices farm workers made as essential workers in order to keep our food supply intact during the pandemic. And as we honor the contributions of workers across our nation, let’s show gratitude to the men and women who feed America and the world. The UFW Foundation worked tirelessly to advance legislation that would empower USDA to support farm workers throughout this pandemic,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, UFW Foundation Executive Director.

Funds will be awarded through grants to state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers ranging from $5,000,000 to $50,000,000. USDA is setting aside $20 million for at least one pilot to provide targeted support to front-line grocery workers.

Eligible entities must demonstrate the capacity to reimburse farmworkers and meatpacking workers for up to $600 for expenses incurred due to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The USDA encourages grant applications that demonstrate trusted communications networks with farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and/or front-line grocery workers, as well as strong financial controls. The grant requires applicants to show connectedness to hard-to-reach worker populations either directly or in partnerships with other local organizations. Applicants should be able to describe how they will partner with smaller organizations to facilitate financial relief to such populations.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will offer technical assistance through one or more partners and webinars for applicants to help them understand the RFA, once it is published. Additionally, grants management specialists will be available to answer any incoming questions and emails after the details are announced. For more information about upcoming webinars, grant eligibility, and program requirements, visit the FFWR webpage.

Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov. A subsequent press release and materials will detail the deadlines and application procedures.

USDA will also be soon announcing a separate $700 million suite of pandemic safety and response grants for producers, processors, farmers markets, distributors, and seafood processors and vessels impacted by COVID-19.

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