HOUSTON (KIAH) — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today that $700 million in competitive grants will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program to help farm workers and meat processors with pandemic health and safety costs.
The announcement was made in a press interview with Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the United Farm Workers Foundation and Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International. In addition, to recognize the vital role and costs borne by frontline grocers, $20 million of this amount is earmarked for at least one pilot program to support grocers and test options for reaching them in the future. Funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the new program is part of USDA’s Build Back Better efforts to respond to and recover from the pandemic.
The program provides support to farm workers, meat processors and frontline grocers for the costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This benefit is intended to cover reasonable and necessary personal, family or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), care for dependents and costs related to quarantines and testing in related to the Covid19 pandemic. This aligns with the government’s efforts to revive the economy and provide aid to historically disadvantaged communities. The Request for Application (RFA) will be announced in early fall and will remain open for 60 days. Additional information and technical assistance for applying for these grants and program updates will be provided by USDA when the application period begins.
“As we celebrate the social and economic achievements of our nation’s workers on Labor Day, we recognize that our farm workers, meat packers and grocery workers have overcome unprecedented challenges and taken significant personal risk to ensure that Americans protect their families. could feed and maintain them all over the world. 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 part of this government’s effort to ensure aid to alleviate the effects of the pandemic is distributed to those who need it most.”
“On this Labor Day, let’s not forget the sacrifices farm workers have made as essential workers to keep our food supply intact during the pandemic. And as we honor the contributions of workers across our country, let’s show gratitude to the men and women who nourish America and the world. The UFW Foundation has worked tirelessly to advance legislation that would enable USDA to support farm workers during this pandemic,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director of the UFW Foundation. “We now applaud the Biden-Harris administration, Secretary Vilsack and USDA for recognizing the critical role of farm workers in the country’s food security and economy through this new program. The work will not be done until this much-needed pandemic aid reaches farm workers across the country, and we look forward to partnering with USDA to that end.”
“America’s meat processors and grocery workers have been on the front lines since the start of the pandemic, risking their health every day to keep our food supply safe during this crisis. This new USDA grant program recognizes the incredible service and sacrifice of our nation’s essential food workers by providing the vital financial support they need, said Marc Perrone, president of UFCW International. “Meat packing plants experienced some of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks when the pandemic first began and few workers deserve our thanks and support more. Across the country, meat processors had to use their own money to pay for personal protective equipment to stay safe at work, take on the burden of increased childcare costs, take on the costs of COVID-19 testing and quarantine , and much more. Grocery workers continue to face health risks during this COVID-19 Delta wave, and the pilot program announced today is a strong step in providing them with the help they and their families need. As the largest union for U.S. food workers, the UFCW applauds the Biden administration and Secretary Vilsack for investing in these critical programs that will support the brave men and women in meat processing plants and supermarkets to keep our food supply chain strong as the pandemic continues.
Funds will be awarded through grants to government agencies, tribal entities and non-profit organizations serving farm workers and meat processors, ranging from $5 million to $50,000,000. USDA is earmarking $20 million for at least one pilot to provide targeted support to frontline grocery products. Eligible entities must demonstrate the capacity to reimburse farm workers and meat processors up to $600 for costs incurred as a result of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages grant applications that demonstrate reliable communication networks with farm workers, meat processors and/or frontline grocers, as well as strong financial controls. The grant requires applicants to demonstrate connection to hard-to-reach working populations, either directly or in partnership with other local organizations. Applicants should be able to describe how they will work with smaller organizations to facilitate financial assistance to such populations.
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides technical assistance through one or more partners and webinars for applicants to help them understand the RFA once it is published. In addition, grant management specialists will be available to answer all incoming questions and emails after details have been announced. Visit the FFWR webpage at www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/ffwr or contact us at [email protected] for more information about upcoming webinars, grant eligibility and program requirements.
Applications must be submitted electronically at www.grants.gov. A subsequent press release and materials will detail the deadlines and application procedures.
USDA will also soon announce a separate $700 million package in pandemic safety and response grants to producers, processors, farmers’ markets, distributors and processors of seafood and vessels affected by COVID-19.
Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, USDA announced plans earlier this month to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through its Build Back Better initiative. USDA to strengthen and transform the food system, using funding from the American Rescue Plan and the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help disadvantaged communities and support high-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. A transformed food system will provide producers with a greater share of the food dollar and make farming a more attractive profession. It will also improve the diet and health status of Americans, lowering the costs of health care and diet-related illness.
Through USDA’s Build Back Better initiative, USDA will help ensure that the food system of the future is fair, competitive, distributed and resilient; supports health with access to healthy, affordable food; ensures that growers and workers receive a greater share of the food dollar; and promotes equity, climate resilience and mitigation.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming the U.S. food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers who adopt climate-smart food and forestry practices, make historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and work for equality across the department by removing systemic barriers and building a more representative workforce for America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
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