Coalition will pay farmworkers to self-isolate
The Oregon Worker Relief Coalition (OWRC) has announced a fund that will provide up to two weeks of financial assistance for agricultural workers who need to self-isolate after being exposed to COVID-19.
Under the Oregon Worker Quarantine Fund, adults employed in the agricultural sector who are self-isolating and seeking healthcare assistance are eligible for aid, regardless of their federal immigration status.
The program is supported by public donations and is a collaboration with the state and Gov. Kate Brown. Farmworkers can receive up to $1,290 if they quarantine for three weeks after exposure to the coronavirus.
"When people working on farms or in food processing plants are exposed to COVID-19, they have few options to prevent the virus from spreading besides giving up their paycheck," Ramon Valdez, director of strategic initiatives and relationships at innovation law lab, said in a press release.
According to the OWRC, farmworkers in Oregon make an average annual wage of $24,200, with most reporting they cannot afford to take time off work.
"The quarantine fund will help us contain this pandemic by taking the financial stress off of workers who keep Oregonians fed and agricultural businesses running," Valdez said.
Any individual working in Oregon in farming, fishing, tree planting, tree harvesting, dairy, ranching, food processing, canning, slaughtering, packaging, butchering or nursery work qualifies as an agricultural worker.
The coalition hopes that the fund will alleviate pressure on workers experiencing financial insecurity during the pandemic.
"Many in our state's agricultural workforce are immigrants who have been left out of federal relief programs, creating additional financial stress for families," Reyna Lopez, executive director at PCUN (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), Oregon's farmworker union, said.
Food packing and agriculture worksites are also overrepresented in workplace outbreaks tracked by the Oregon Health Authority.
"COVID-19 outbreaks have been more common at agricultural worksites where it is necessary for people to work close together," Lopez said. "The Quarantine Fund fills a gap for people who are keeping the food supply-chain up and running."
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