Pingree Welcomes $700M in USDA Pandemic Relief for Farm and Food Workers
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $700 million will soon be available to help farm and meatpacking workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be available through the USDA’s new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who is an organic farmer and a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, welcomed the news that this much-needed grant funding will be available to Maine farm and food workers.
“The pandemic has taken an immeasurable toll on frontline food system workers in Maine, and unfortunately these workers are still at risk as we see case numbers rise due to the Delta variant. Thanks to this new program, these hardworking essential employees will finally get the support they need to keep themselves safe while they continue to keep all of us fed,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Since the earliest days of the pandemic, I’ve pushed to better protect these workers and was proud to support this funding in the end-of-year omnibus bill and American Rescue Plan. I’m grateful for this new grant program, which will help us take another step forward in our recovery from the pandemic, and look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration to provide support to those who need it most.”
Funding announced today through USDA’s Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program will be available through grants to state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers. $20 million of the funding will be set aside for at least one pilot to provide targeted support to front-line grocery workers.
In January of 2021, Pingree joined a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives in calling on USDA to quickly implement a program to provide grants and forgivable loans to agriculture and food businesses for measures to protect their workers, in line with language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. In a letter, the members said, “As the virus continues to threaten the resiliency of our food supply chains, it has never been more critical to ensure the well-being of our agricultural producers and workforce.”
Pingree also advocated for improved protections for federal food safety inspection personnel and meatpacking workers during a February 2021 Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Oversight Hearing with the USDA’s Inspector General.