California proposal would help farmworkers facing financial insecurity due to severe drought

“It is estimated that one in four undocumented households are food insecure, meaning that they have limited or inconsistent access to adequate food—disturbingly, more than half of undocumented migrant and seasonal workers are food insecure,” Hurtado’s office said last month. “These same essential workers worked tirelessly to provide food during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are at risk of lay-offs during periods of drought in California.”

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Under the proposed legislation, $20 million would be allocated for a fund that would then distribute $1,000 payments every month to eligible families. Civil Eats has reported this assistance as “unconditional,” hopefully meaning that families could use the aid for a variety of expenses. California Farmworker Foundation executive director Hernan Hernandez said many farmworkers are having to choose between paying for rent or eating due to slashed work hours.

“SB 1066 will bring much needed relief to Farmworkers and their families, by providing them with immediate assistance to continue to live under the current changes in climate,” he said. Hernandez told Civil Eats that “when we talk about climate change, we forget about those that are most impacted and are already hurting.”

The proposal notably has support from some growers, Civil Eats said. United Farm Workers (UFW) said The last month that the agricultural industry had “strongly” opposed a bill that would give laborers more choices in how they can vote in their union elections. While Gov. Gavin Newsom disappointingly vetoed a version of the legislation last year, farmworkers and their advocates have continued the pressure to have him support a more recent version of it.

According to a new report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 2021 was the second dries two-year period on record, resulting in reduced water deliveries to nearly 400,000 acres of cropland,” Daily Kos’ Rebekah Sager has previously written. “The New York Times reported that by 2040, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to lose at least 535,000 acres of agricultural production—more than one-tenth of the area’s farmland.”

Farmworkers have already often faced life-threatening obstacles in their work, including having to work outdoors during historic heat waves. Climate change is only going to worsen this, and this proposal could be vital in protecting and uplifting these essential workers as we continue to push for the investments we need to fight the climate crisis. “Nowhere else has the impact of the drought being felt greater than here in the Central Valley by our farmworkers,” said Hurtado.

She has previously introduced legislation providing greater food security to low-income immigrant families. “The bill received implementation funding in the 2021-2022 State Budget,” her office said.

“Farmworkers have suffered more than ever, as they have lost vital work opportunities and hours, and it’s my intention that SB 1066 provide much needed so that they can meet their basic assistance needs,” Hurtado continued. “We must provide this drought relief now—not just when it comes to supplemental pay, but also by ensuring they have the water they need for their homes and health, and to continue the work they do to provide safe, nutritious food for us all .”


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