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UFCW: Biden $700 Million COVID Frontline Food Worker Aid Supports Essential Workers as Pandemic Continues

September 7, 2021

America’s Largest Union for Meatpacking and Grocery Workers Applauds New Biden USDA Funding to Support Workers Keeping Food Supply Secure

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International President Marc Perrone, head of the union for 1.3 million essential workers in meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and other frontline industries, joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a press conference announcing new Biden Administration funding for a COVID relief program for frontline food workers as the pandemic continues. This includes meatpacking workers, grocery workers, and farm workers still on the frontlines in states across the country.

The $700 million USDA Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program will help meatpacking workers and farmworkers with COVID health and safety costs. Additionally, to recognize the essential role and costs borne by frontline grocery workers, $20 million of this amount has been set aside for at least one pilot program to support grocery workers and test options for reaching them in the future. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone: “America’s meatpacking and grocery workers have been on the frontlines since the pandemic began, risking their health every day to keep our food supply secure during this crisis. This new USDA grant program recognizes the incredible service and sacrifices of our country’s essential food workers by providing the critical financial support they need, said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. 

“Meatpacking plants experienced some of the most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks when the pandemic first began and there are few workers more deserving of our thanks and support. Across the country, meatpacking workers have had to use their own money to pay for personal protective equipment to stay safe on the job, shoulder the burden of increased childcare costs, take on expenses from COVID-19 testing and quarantining, and much more. Grocery workers continue to face health risk during this COVID-19 Delta surge and the pilot program announced today is a strong step toward providing them with the assistance they and their families need. 

“As the largest union for America’s essential food workers, UFCW applauds the Biden Administration and Secretary Vilsack for investing in these critical programs that will support the brave men and women in meatpacking plants and grocery stores keeping our food supply chain strong as the pandemic continues.”

USDA Secretary Vilsack: “As we celebrate the social and economic achievements of our nation’s workers on Labor Day, we recognize that our farmworkers, meat packing 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. They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services. 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.”

The program will provide relief to meatpacking workers, frontline grocery workers, and farmworkers for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief is intended to defray costs for reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the COVID-19 pandemic

United Farmworkers (UFW) Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres: “Let us not forget the sacrifices farm workers made as essential workers in order to keep our food supply intact during the pandemic. And as we honor the contributions of workers across our nation, let’s show gratitude to the men and women who feed America and the world. The UFW Foundation worked tirelessly to advance legislation that would empower USDA to support farm workers throughout this pandemic. We now applaud the Biden-Harris Administration, Secretary Vilsack and USDA for recognizing the vital role of farm workers in the nation’s food security and economy, through this new program. The work is not done until this much-needed pandemic relief reaches farm workers across the nation, and we look forward to working with USDA to that end.”

Funds will be awarded through grants to state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers ranging from $5,000,000 to $50,000,000. USDA is setting aside $20 million for at least one pilot to provide targeted support to front-line grocery workers. Eligible entities must demonstrate the capacity to reimburse farmworkers and meatpacking workers for up to $600 for expenses incurred due to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic

COVID IMPACT ON FRONTLINE FOOD WORKERS:

UFCW has been one of the strongest champions for America’s essential food workers and recently confirmed that among the union’s members nationwide, COVID risks continue for these brave men and women. Since the pandemic began, there have now been at least: 

  • 483 frontline worker deaths and at least 93, 900 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 198 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed 
  • 67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.