Farmworkers left out of COVID19 aid

Take action: Farm Workers left out of COVID-19 federal aid.

What would Cesar Chavez say? Email your Congressmembers today.

By Jocelyn Sherman

The 3 trillion dollar COVID-19 stimulus package was signed last week. These funds will help many families, but leaves many farm workers out. There are 9.5 billion dollars headed for the agricultural sector and it’s unclear if any of those funds will support farm workers taking risks to put food on our tables. At least 50% of farm workers are undocumented, so they won’t get the relief payment most other households will. Most are still laboring in the fields, feeding America during this pandemic. They are facing huge new economic burdens and risks. Please take action to help them.

Undocumented farm workers pay taxes, but they are left out of the stimulus check the rest of us are eligible to receive. Even their US citizen children are left out. They are told they are essential workers, but they are not receiving essential benefits. They are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis by going out to the fields harvesting our food. Many are unable to practice social distancing as it is not possible with their work. Because of COVID-19, masks are a rare commodity, so some farm workers are put at additional risk of Valley Fever or other illnesses by not having masks that are supposed to be provided.

These low wage workers are being forced to deal with huge economic expenses. Childcare for one. For farm worker families, both the mother and father are usually working just to break even. All of a sudden they need to face the economic challenge of their children being home instead of in school. This means many of these low wage workers, who are exempt from “Stay at Home” orders, have to pay for unexpected childcare. One vegetable worker shared his child care costs went from $100/week to $220/week, as besides his 4-year-old he now has to pay for childcare expenses for his 6, 9, and 11-year-olds. When you are making $500 a week and live in one of the most expensive counties in CA, this additional expense is overwhelming. Not only that, but there is the burden of home schooling and the cost of school supplies for their children. 

Farm workers are also dealing with panic buying. Because farm workers are working in the fields during the day, they can’t stand in line when the stores open. By the time farm workers get to the store at the end of the day, the store is often out of basic foods. The alternative is local small stores which often price gouge and force farm workers to pay even more to keep their families fed.

In addition, farm workers are facing extra transportation costs. Some companies are requiring workers not to carpool during COVID19. Plus many workers desperately want to social distance vs. being in an enclosed and crowded car or bus. 

Something has to be done. We are depending on farm workers to keep our supermarket shelves full. It’s time that Congress take care of the farm workers who are keeping us fed. Tell Congress to provide hazard pay for these workers who are now working in a dangerous environment and dealing with huge additional expenses. 

As Cesar Chavez said, “It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.” Essential workers deserve essential benefits. Please take action today. 

More information about United Farm Workers can be found at:

United Farm Workers