Riverside farm workers infected or exposed to COVID-19 could get up to $ 2,000 through the ‘Healthy Harvest’ program.
In an effort to protect farmworkers and other food processing workers, Riverside County began a financial assistance program Wednesday to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Riverside County’s “Healthy Harvest” program, in collaboration with TODEC Legal Center, is offering $ 2,000 cash assistance to cover lost work hours for farmworkers exposed or infected with COVID-19 while in quarantine.
Those who cannot isolate themselves at home will have access to temporary accommodation, in hotels and / or motels, as well as food, transportation and wellness checks.
The million-dollar program was unanimously approved Aug. 25 by the Riverside County board of supervisors. The ordinance was written by Fourth District Supervisor Víctor Manuel Pérez and supported by Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington
The program is expected to help around 250 agricultural and food processing workers including those who drive tractors, pack food and perform all work related to agriculture.
“It was very important for me to introduce this ordinance because I am the son of immigrant farm workers,” said Pérez. “But it is also important for our region to know that we have quite a few people who work here in agriculture and we know that agricultural workers are the people who often suffer in silence.”
Luz Gallegos, director of community programs for TODEC, said that to apply for financial assistance, workers infected or exposed to COVID-19 must be over 18 years of age and have a household income of 80% or less of the area median income.
“This program is the only one in the entire state that is giving $ 2,000 so that our agricultural and food processing workers can isolate themselves without a pending because they will basically have their time paid when they are in quarantine,” Gallegos said.
She indicated that there was a fight to offer this amount to workers since many of them do not have the possibility of applying for unemployment. She said that TODEC has known many cases where workers have been diagnosed but continue to work because otherwise they do not have money to eat or to pay their essential expenses.
“The program does not ask for any type of legal status, the only thing we want to see is that they meet the requirements,” said Gallegos.
Supervisor Pérez said the program will really help farmworkers protect their family members and have support to recover lost wages.
“What a great day, on this Mexican Independence Day, September 16, a day of celebration, to have this program in favor of our community,” said supervisor Pérez.
Agriculture is estimated to be a more than $ 800 million industry in Riverside County. However, workers have to work under difficult situations not only with COVID-19 but lately also with poor air quality due to fires.
“The farmers end up going to the hospital because they have breathing problems and there they are also diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Gallegos.
Statistics from three weeks ago from Riverside County showed that more than 4,000 farm workers tested positive for COVID-19.
How to apply for help
Gallegos emphasized that the entire process will be carried out by phone from beginning to end since the people who are eligible are those who are infected with COVID-19 or exposed to contagion.
“We want them to stay home and not worry about finances when they are in isolation,” Gallegos said.
The interested party must show the required documents by means of a text message or electronically.
Valid documents are current or expired photo identification that is issued by a government agency from either the United States or the applicant’s country of origin. They also need proof of address such as an electricity, water or telephone bill and proof that you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed. This can be obtained from any Riverside County Medical Health Officer.
No application will be approved until the necessary proof is submitted as the program is governmental.
“We have to document their files to show that they are actually the people and that they qualify for this resource,” Gallegos said.
Pérez asserted that through this Cosecha Sana program he also seeks to show people that agricultural workers are as important as any other individual, regardless of who they are, where they come from or whether they are documented or not.
“And this is just my little way of helping our community and ultimately helping society because without our farm workers, we don’t eat,” Pérez said.
Individuals should call 1-888-863-3291 Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Applications will be open until capacity is filled. Assistance will be provided in English, Spanish, and Purepecha.