The Problem: America’s agriculture workers—who are essential for families across America to keep food on the table during the Corona Virus crisis—urgently need legislation to help address the increased risk they are taking on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Agriculture workers have a critical need for additional protections, compensation, and health and safety protections so that they can safeguard themselves, their families, other workers, and the stability of the food supply amid the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $23.5 billion to support agricultural producers. But unlike other forms of industry support, the rescue funds did not require recipients to take any particular steps to support their workers. Agriculture workers are expected to ensure our food security, but they lack certain employment-based benefits. Their work for this country should be respected and honored, and they should have the resources and safeguards they need in place to stay safe and healthy. 96.6% of all farmworkers work in farms that have fewer than 50 employees. Under the Families First Corona Virus Act, employers with fewer than 50 employees can deny paid sick leave without any Department of Labor (DOL) oversight. Over 10,000 meat handling workers have been infected or exposed. 70% of farmworkers, or roughly1.75 million workers, are undocumented. The Solution is to support efforts to help agricultural producers through this crisis. It is critical to recognize that our nation’s food security depends on the ability of agriculture workers—regardless of immigration status—to work safely to produce our nation’s food. This bill requires agricultural producers (regardless of the number of employees) who receive future direct agriculture-specific COVID-19 to do the following:
* Provide sick-pay for 10 paid days of sick leave.
* Provide pandemic premium pay at an additional $13 per hour for agriculture workers, acknowledging the personal risk of maintaining the nation’s food supply during the pandemic.
* Make efforts to maintain payrolls and limit agriculture worker layoffs and furloughs.
* Implement Center for Disease Control recommendations for sanitation and social distancing in work sites, employer-provided housing, and transportation.
* The bill also provides grants to agricultural producers to support premium pay and purchasing of hand-washing stations, portable restrooms and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).