KEY POINTS

  • The grant will act as financial support for farm and food workers
  • Eligible recipients may get up to $600 for expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The USDA will also allocate $20 million for a program aimed at supporting grocery workers

Millions of American workers are set to receive $600 relief checks soon as part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Build Back Better plans. 

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program, which allocated $700 million in competitive grant funding to help farm and food workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant will be funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which allocated money to community development financial institutions that serve minority communities. 

Under the FFWR program, state agencies, tribal entities and nonprofits are required to apply for the grant. They are also required to show proof that they are able to connect with the hard-to-reach populations either directly or in partnership with local organizations. 

Groups who are granted the fund will be responsible for distributing the funding to eligible farmworkers and meatpacking employees, who could receive up to $600 for expenses they incurred in preparation for or preventing exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Department of Agriculture is expected to start receiving applications through www.grants.gov in the fall. 

“They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services,” Secretary Vilsack said in a press release. “This grant program is another component of this administration’s efforts to ensure assistance to alleviate the effects of the pandemic is distributed to those who need it most,” he added. 

As part of the FFWR program, the USDA will also allocate $20 million for a pilot program aimed at supporting front-line grocery workers to help defray costs for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These expenses include purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care and expenses associated with COVID-19 testing or quarantine. 

“As we celebrate the social and economic achievements of our nation’s workers on Labor Day, we recognize that our farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic,” Vilsack said. 

The FFWR program comes as millions of Americans continue to urge Congress to send out a fourth round of stimulus checks as COVID-19 cases continue to spread across the country. 

A Change.org petition posted by Denver restaurant owner Stephanie Bonin calling for Congress to send $2,000 in monthly relief payments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has reached 2,890,098 of its 3 million signature goal. However, lawmakers in Congress have yet to indicate plans to send out more relief checks.

Green power: Colrerd Nkosi uses a pipe from a stream to drive a turbine salvaged from a piece of old farming equipment Green power: Colrerd Nkosi uses a pipe from a stream to drive a turbine salvaged from a piece of old farming equipment Photo: AFP / AMOS GUMULIRA