As COVID-19 Cases Spike Among Farmworkers, Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Eduardo Garcia Call for Immediate Action

Friday, August 7, 2020

Expanded California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package Faces End-of-August Deadline for Passage

SACRAMENTO, August 6, 2020Today, Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) urged quick passage of their first-in-the-nation COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package, a bold effort to protect the health, safety, and economic security of agricultural workers in California and prevent disruptions to the nation’s food supply. The package has advanced out of the State Assembly and now works its way through the Senate, where it must be passed by the end of the month.

“The ticking time bomb has exploded,” said Rivas. “Since the coronavirus outbreak began, I have been sounding the alarm that crowded living and working conditions make farmworkers uniquely vulnerable to this pandemic. Now COVID-19 cases are spiking in agricultural communities across the state. We must pass the newly expanded Farmworker Relief Package to ensure that these workers and their communities are protected—not just now, but in the months and years to come.” 

Added Rivas, “Our state’s $50 billion-per-year agricultural industry has suffered significant disruptions during this pandemic. By investing in California’s agricultural economy, we provide job stability for farmworkers and their families while strengthening rural communities. That’s why I became a joint author of Assemblymember Garcia’s AB 1248, known as the ‘Buy California’ bill.” AB 1248 will ensure that all state institutions purchase California-grown agricultural products, when available.

The Farmworker Relief Package will also now include efforts to significantly expand the California Farmworker Housing Assistance Tax Credit, which will incentivize the development of permanent, safe housing for farm and agricultural workers. “We must take steps to alleviate the overcrowded housing conditions that leave farmworkers and their families constantly at risk,” said Rivas. “Once one member of these cramped households becomes infected or exposed, it is too late.”

The Farmworker Relief Package still includes, as previously announced, AB 2043 (Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety), 2164 (Rural Telehealth), and 2165 (Rural Access to Justice).

“We know that our underserved, agricultural communities are experiencing the most acute surges and economic ramifications of COVID-19,” said Garcia. “The health and safety of our farmworkers, who have been standing on the frontlines keeping us fed throughout this pandemic, must be prioritized. We cannot

afford to jeopardize them or the stability of our food supply systems. I commend Assemblymember Rivas for being a strong voice on these issues. Together, we have crafted a series of legislative proposals to guarantee farmworker protections and safeguard our California agricultural economy during this challenging time.”

Rivas concluded, “As we move through the last three weeks of this legislative session, I call on my colleagues to support the urgently needed legislation in our Farmworker Relief Package, including critical provisions to ensure workplace safety and expand access to telehealth, e-filing, and housing for rural communities. The Legislature must do its part—and do it now—to provide farmworkers the relief they desperately need.”

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The EXPANDED CALIFORNIA COVID-19 FARMWORKER RELIEF Package

AB 2043: Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety Act (R. Rivas)
—Funds an outreach and informational campaign for farmworkers and improves tracking complaints among agricultural workers

AB 2164: Telehealth for Rural and Community Health Centers Act (R. Rivas)
—Deploys telehealth services for rural and community health centers

AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act (R. Rivas)

—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

AB 1248: Buy California Agricultural Products (E. Garcia)

—Ensures that all state institutions, including schools, purchase their agricultural products grown in California, when available

$25M Expansion of the California Farmworker Housing Assistance Tax Credit

—Request for substantial expansion of the tax credit, currently funded with only $500K, to incentivize new, permanent, safe housing for our farm and other agricultural workers

 

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.