“California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package” Advances out of Assembly Policy Committees

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Assemblymember Robert Rivas’s Bills Protect Farmworkers and California’s Food Supply

SACRAMENTO, May 27, 2020 – Today, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) applauded the Assembly’s Labor, Health, and Judiciary committees for advancing his first-in-the-nation Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package, which includes bills AB 2043, AB 2164, and AB 2165, as well as a $25-million Budget Request relating to temporary agricultural housing. The package provides critical protection for these vulnerable essential workers, who risk contracting COVID-19 as they harvest California’s food.

“Farmworkers are putting their health and indeed their lives on the line to help keep us fed during this pandemic,” said Rivas. “I am grateful to my Assembly colleagues for supporting this urgently needed relief package. By helping farmworkers stay safe, we also prevent disruptions to California’s food supply.”  

“Farm and other agricultural workers often live in crowded households, work shoulder-to-shoulder without personal protective equipment or adequate sanitation facilities, and commute to work on crowded buses,” explained Rivas. “Even when sick, these workers can rarely self-isolate – which leaves them at greater risk for contracting COVID-19, especially since many lack reliable access to quality health care.”  

Said Rivas: “This relief package mandates safer working conditions for all California farmworkers, expands access to telehealth and court services, and provides for temporary housing so farmworkers who have been exposed to COVID-19 can self-isolate.”

The California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package has been modified since it was first announced on April 9, adjusting to complement the evolving federal and state response to the pandemic. It initially included a paid sick leave expansion, then on April 16 Governor Newsom announced a robust paid sick leave policy for food supply workers, including farmworkers. The package also initially included expanded hazard pay, then on May 6 Governor Newsom signed an executive order making worker’s compensation more readily available for workers exposed to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Federal CARES Act allocated substantial funding to childcare for essential workers, another provision of the initial Farmworker Relief Package.  

The Farmworker Relief Package now includes three bills and a budget request, all detailed below, intended to address remaining needs of farmworkers related to workplace safety, housing, telehealth, and access to justice.

“Agricultural workers continue to make up a disproportionate percentage of new COVID-19 cases in my district and throughout California,” concluded Rivas. “Heading into the summer season, when peak numbers of farmworkers will crowd our fields to harvest crops, we must step up to keep them safe. I intend to continue pressing forward until these bills become law.”

The California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package

AB 2043 [formerly AB 2915]: Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety Act—with joint authors Garcia (D-Coachella) and Gonzalez (D-San Diego)—passed out of the Assembly Labor Committee

 -- Directs the Cal/OSHA standards board to adopt occupational safety and health standards for
 COVID-19 infection prevention. The standards will include, but shall not be limited to: sanitation
 practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and physical distancing requirements
 -- Funds an outreach campaign of public service announcements and workplace signs, in both
 English and Spanish, to educate farmworkers on the Cal/OSHA guidance
 

AB 2164: Telehealth and E-Consult Services for Rural and Community Health Centers Act—with joint author Salas (D-Bakersfield)—passed out of the Assembly Health Committee

 -- Deploys telehealth and e-consult services for rural and community health centers
 

AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act—passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee

 -- Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to
 courthouses is a serious problem in many farmworker and other rural communities
 

$25M Budget Request for Temporary Housing for Agricultural Workers—referred to Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4

 -- Expands Governor Newsom’s Project Roomkey with a $25 million allocation to provide
 temporary housing for agricultural workers to self-isolate if they have been exposed to or
 contracted COVID-19

Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.
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