Courtesy of Assemblyman Robert Rivas’ Office:
On May 4, 2020, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) submitted a $25-million budget request in the State Assembly to expand Governor Newsom’s “Project Roomkey” initiative and fund temporary housing for sick or exposed agricultural workers in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis – enough to guarantee at least 3,000 rooms for three months and benefiting as many as 40,500 workers.
Rivas said the following: “The inability for farmworkers to socially distance because of overcrowded housing conditions places these essential workers at greater risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19, especially since many lack reliable access to testing and quality health care. In fact, there have already been COVID-19 outbreaks among agricultural workers in such places as South Dakota, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. A similar outbreak here in California would threaten our State’s food supply chain at a critical time.”
Rivas went on:
“I am asking for a one-time budget allocation to expand Project Roomkey—the Governor’s program to provide motel rooms and other temporary accommodations to protect sick or exposed unsheltered individuals,” said Rivas. “Through this $25 million expansion of the program, we will be able to provide upfront funding for a significant expansion of the program to reach at-risk agricultural workers – though much of these expenditures will likely be later reimbursed by FEMA.”
This budget request is part of a first-in-the-nation COVID-19 relief package focused on farmworkers, recently introduced by Rivas and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). Their legislation also includes expanded workplace safety guidance, a bilingual outreach campaign to educate workers on personal protection practices, expanded telehealth for rural areas, and a tax credit for farmers who offer overtime work to their workers.
According to Rivas: “Farmworkers are putting their health and – indeed – lives on the line to help keep us fed during this pandemic. Now that the Legislative Session has resumed here in Sacramento, I will continue to work diligently to protect their health and safety – along with our $50 billion per year agricultural economy and the nation’s food supply chain.”
For local information on COVID-19, including county recommendations that may be more restrictive than state guidelines, please stay informed at:
- State website for all COVID 19 related matters — www.covid19.ca.gov.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov