A new competitive grant funding initiative known as the Farm and Food Workers Relief program was recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The program aims to provide support for farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers for pandemic-related health and safety costs. A total of $700 million is being made available to support the new program through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is setting aside $20 million specifically for front-line grocery workers. At least one pilot project will be developed to evaluate methods for assisting grocery workers moving forward.
“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,” Secretary Vilsack said in a press release. “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.”
The funding assistance is meant to cover some of the costs for certain personal, family, or living expenses related to COVID-19. The costs of personal protective equipment, dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and COVID testing are all examples of what the program is intended to cover. The application process for the Farm and Food Workers Relief program will be announced sometime in early Fall and will be open for 60 days.
Once the application window is opened, USDA will be providing additional information as well as technical assistance for applying for the grants. Grant funds ranging from $5 million to $50 million will be awarded to state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations serving the intended audience. USDA has also indicated that the agency intends to launch a similar program for producers, processors, distributors, and farmers markets.