Authored by: Ollie Lammers
The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted frontline food workers. Public Justice and other organizations have been working hard to change the working environment for frontline food workers, especially those working in the meatpacking factories.
According to Civil Eats, the USDA recently announced they are investing $700 million in a new program for people who have been working on farms and meatpacking facilities. The investment will offer a new program that will give up to $600 to individuals who worked on farms and meatpacking plants throughout the pandemic. The individual payments are for living expenses related to COVID-19, such as PPE (Personal protective equipment), COVID-19 testing, and dependent care.
The USDA is still working out the details of which organizations will be distributing the funds and how the program will move forward. In the following weeks, the agency will provide technical support to nonprofits, tribal agencies, and state agencies to ensure the organization receives the instructions and support they need to provide funds in their local community.
Many organizations think the $600 payments are helpful to workers but cannot make up for the lives or livelihoods lost during the pandemic.
COVID-19 highlighted the struggles and isolation of communities working in meatpacking facilities and farms. The Food & Environment Reporting Network estimates nearly 92,000 people who work on farms and meatpacking facilities have contracted COVID-19, and more than 450 have died.
Public Justice and other organizations stepped up to help meatpacking workers who were not given any necessary protections during the height of the pandemic. Public Justice and their team helped meatpacking workers at the Smithfield meatpacking facility. If you would like to learn more about their important work on fighting for worker's rights in the meatpacking industry, click here to listen to The How David Beats Goliath Podcast episode 16, "Cases That Made a Difference™ The Importance of Worker's Rights in the Meat Packing Industry with Public Justice."
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