CLIMATE FARMWORKERS 7

Carrots are picked near Arvin, California, August 20, 2020. 

EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved a $105,000 grant Tuesday, January 26, to be awarded to the Vo Neighborhood Medical Clinic (VNMC) and community-based organizations (CBO) to operate the Housing for the Harvest project to shelter individuals who work in the agricultural industry with a positive COVID test or exposed to COVID-19 yet have no means to isolate themselves from families or others.

The project is provided by the State of California and administered by VNMC. The grant will allow VNMC to work with local CBOs to provide wrap-around services to the qualified individuals. Wrap-around services include costs not covered by insurance. About 60-70 percent of the costs are non-medical and not eligible for reimbursements, such as meals, transportation, laundry, and medical care.

Alex Cardenas, representative and board member of VNMC, expressed its gratitude for the approval of the grant, which will aid local farmworkers.

“I want to thank Imperial County Agricultural Benefit Program for their consideration. This is a very good program in conjunction with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and California Office of Emergency Management, in terms of addressing some of these needs and some of these essential workers and keeping ag moving,” said Cardenas.

The funds are coming from the Imperial County Agricultural Benefit Program and will go toward approximately 150 individuals — $50 per individual per day for a 14-day period, totaling $700 per individual. VNMC informed that additional funding is expected from other sponsors and grants.

“We do have only about four that have participated in the program and have provided wrap around services for them. All four have fully recovered,” Cardenas said. “We’re also continuing to market and provide the service to folks and it’s a community benefit that will be ongoing even after the fall harvest. So, again, it’s a really good program so we’re hoping that the Board will move along with the recommendation of the Benefit Program and, again, it will be a program that will be available all year long for anybody with an access to agriculture.”

According to Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz, the presentation provided to the Ag Benefit Advisory Committee was very thorough.

“The Ag Benefit Advisory Committee feels that this is a good program for ag and it fits right in the criteria of a grant,” said Ortiz.

He said several questions were asked, including what farm workers would be eligible for the Housing for the Harvest Program, what is the procedure to determine if an employee was COVID positive or was exposed, and implementing the wrap-around services.

VNMC was also asked what would happen to any of the allocated money that was unspent.

The grant is issued on a reimbursement basis, meaning there will be no additional money left over from the grant.

“So, after this dialogue the Committee made a motion to recommend to the BOS to approve the initial authorization for funding the grant application requested by Vo Neighborhood Medical Clinic,” said Ortiz.

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