Lawmakers Propose “California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package”

Jim Rogers Labor and Immigration, Legislative

Farmworkers hoeing potatoes on large Central California farm.
Credit: Richard Thornton /

California Assemblymember Robert Rivas introduced a bill that will aid farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic titled “California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package.” Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia who is partnering with Rivas on the proposed bill said, “protecting our farmworkers is especially important as they step up to the plate, placing themselves at risk, to feed our families and keep our food supply intact during this challenging time.”

The California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package compiled of five bills is said to expand paid sick leave for farmworkers, provide hazard pay and extend a tax credit to farmers who offer overtime work to their workers. In addition, it would expedite temporary housing to mitigate overcrowding and allow for social distancing, and also provide resources for personal protection practices.

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In response to the Bill, CFBF administrator, Jim Houston issued the following statement,  “The tax credit for overtime is desperately needed, and we appreciate the effort to address rising employment costs during a time of economic crisis. As to the other aspects of the bill package, we have not seen details and need to have further discussions.” He added, “But clearly, farmers and ranchers are rightfully concerned with their ability to keep their employees safe and keep food flowing to the marketplace, while hoping they can still afford to pay their employees and creditors. Any new costs, mandates or regulations could seriously harm farms and ranches that are simply struggling to survive right now.”

The proposed California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package will include the following Acts:

B 2915:  Farmworker COVID-19 Health and Safety Act (to be amended) — Expands paid sick leave for farmworkers from 3 days to 2 weeks — Provides for supplemental hazard pay, to compensate farmworkers for increased health and child care costs — Directs subsidies to county, employer, and private child care providers, who provide care to farmworker children — Codifies comprehensive Cal/OSHA guidance on how agricultural businesses should protect and train agricultural workers vis-a-vis COVID-19, including by providing them face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) — Funds an outreach campaign of public service announcements and workplace signs, in both English and Spanish, to educate farmworkers on the Cal/OSHA guidance — Provides temporary housing for agricultural workers, to mitigate overcrowding and allow for appropriate social distancing — Authorizes a comprehensive survey of farmworker housing conditions, including labor camps and H-2A housing, resulting in statewide recommendations to ensure the health and safety of farmworkers

AB 2956:  Agriculture Labor Shortage and Overtime Act —  Provides an agricultural overtime tax credit, to mitigate the industry labor shortage by subsidizing the cost of businesses paying overtime to existing workers

AB 2164:  Telehealth and e-Consult Services Act — Deploys telehealth and e-consult services for rural and community hospitals

AB 3155:  Moderate Income Housing Act — Streamlines the approval process for smaller unit housing developments, to benefit farm workers as well as other lower-income residents

AB 2165:  Access to Justice and Electronic Court Filings Act — Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a serious problem in many farmworker communities

AgNet West Today ~ 04.13.2020

Danielle Leal
Multi-Media Journalist & AgNet News Hour Anchor