The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday announced $700 million in grants to help farm and food workers with costs related to COVID-19.
"The program will provide relief to farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the USDA said in its announcement. "This relief is intended to defray costs for reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Funds will be distributed through grants given to state governments, tribal entities and nonprofit organizations in amounts ranging from $5 million to $50 million. Another $20 million has been set aside for grocery workers as part of a pilot program.
"They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "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."
Payments of up to $600 will be distributed to farmworkers and meatpacking workers as part of the grant program.
Vilsack has been critical of how COVID-19 relief funds were distributed during the Trump administration, at one point telling The Washington Post that only 0.01 percent of funds were allocated to Black farmers.
During the 2020 presidential election, President Biden struggled in rural, agricultural states, losing to former President Trump in most Midwestern and Southern states.
"Meatpacking plants experienced some of the most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks when the pandemic first began and there are few workers more deserving of our thanks and support," said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in the announcement.
"Grocery workers continue to face health risk during this COVID-19 Delta surge and the pilot program announced today is a strong step toward providing them with the assistance they and their families need," he added.