SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown says that she will put more than $30 million toward protecting Oregon's farm workers from coronavirus, hot on the heels of tasking National Guard members with delivering roughly one million masks delivered to farm managers around the state.
Though Oregon's rate of coronavirus infections has largely been trending downward amid restrictions and expanded testing, several of the state's most recent large outbreaks have been among agricultural workers — affecting seasonal laborers who often live in shared housing or work in close proximity.
“People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director. “The agricultural work environment can put them at higher risk of infection from a communicable disease like COVID-19, and we need to do everything we can to reduce that risk..”
Over the past week, the Oregon National Guard has helped facilitate the delivery of face masks — in the hundreds of thousands — to farm managers across the state to be handed out to laborers. They arrived in Central Point to meet with local farmers on Thursday.
However, the distribution of face masks doesn't begin to cover what Brown has promised to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among farm workers. In a statement on Friday, Brown's office outlined what that $30 million is intended to buy:
- $14 million for mitigation of COVID-19 outbreaks, including a Quarantine Fund for recovering farmworkers, deployment of PPE, and community-based outreach and prevention grants to organizations serving migrant workers to conduct field education, outreach and engagement activities.
- $10 million for agriculture workforce housing, including an assistance program for hotel and alternative housing reimbursements to agricultural producers in response to Oregon OSHA's temporary rules that encourage physical distancing and support additional housing capacity in response to COVID-19.
- $5 million for additional COVID-19 field sanitation, including reimbursement for field sanitation, hand-washing stations and portable restrooms, in response to OSHA's temporary rules.
- $1 million to support additional physical distancing requirements for employer-provided transportation in response to OSHA's temporary rules.
Oregon Housing and Community Services also plans to direct up to $3.5 million for safe shelter alternatives — including hotel and motel vouchers for vulnerable populations whose living situations and underlying health conditions make them particularly susceptible to severe consequences from exposure to COVID-19.
"Oregon’s agricultural workers are on the frontlines during this COVID-19 crisis, working to provide food for Oregon families,” said Governor Brown. “This investment will bring essential resources to agricultural producers and farmworkers, providing critical resources to keep workers safe and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks while protecting the food supply chain."