Meat, Farm Staff To Get $600 Grants In New $700M Assist Plan | Arkansas Enterprise Information

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Meatpacking employees and farm employees who have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic will probably be eligible to get grants of as much as $600 per particular person as a part of a brand new $700 million assist program the U.S. Division of Agriculture introduced Tuesday.

Officers mentioned the grants are supposed to defray a number of the prices employees bore as a lot of them purchased their very own protecting gear or took unpaid depart because the virus tore by their industries whilst they have been required to maintain exhibiting up for work.

“Whereas the remainder of America might do business from home, these courageous women and men continued to indicate up for work each single day to make sure that all of us meals on our tables that we might eat,” mentioned Marc Perrone, president of the United Meals and Business Staff union. “Meatpacking vegetation skilled a number of the most threatening COVID-19 outbreaks when the pandemic first got here round and there have been employees which might be deserving of our assist, and our thanks and our help.”

Final spring, the virus tore by meatpacking vegetation, the place employees stand shoulder-to-shoulder on manufacturing strains. The UFCW union, which represents roughly 80% of the nation’s beef and pork employees and 33% of its poultry employees, estimates that a minimum of 132 meatpacking employees died of COVID-19 and a minimum of 22,000 employees have been contaminated or uncovered to the virus.

On the top of the outbreaks final spring, the meat business’s manufacturing fell to about 60% of regular ranges as a variety of main vegetation have been pressured to shut quickly for deep cleansing and security upgrades or have been pressured to work at slower speeds due to a scarcity of employees.

As an illustration, greater than 1,300 Smithfield employees have been sickened and 4 died final 12 months when the virus rampaged the corporate’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant. At a significant pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, greater than 1,000 of the Tyson Meals plant’s 2,800 employees have been contaminated and a minimum of six died.

“I believe it is vital that we acknowledge that doing this important work has additionally come not solely at a possible bodily threat but in addition at a monetary threat,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned. “Many of those employees have needed to out of their pocket pay for masks or private protecting gear throughout the course of this pandemic. some have needed to take unpaid medical depart.”

The grants to employees will probably be handed out by an assortment of nonprofit teams that apply to work with the federal government. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned he hoped to maintain administrative prices and necessities to use for the cash to a minimal so extra employees might be helped.

“I am hopeful that we’ll be capable of present as a lot assist to as many individuals as potential,” mentioned Vilsack.

A small a part of the help package deal value $20 million will present grants to grocery retailer employees as a part of a pilot program.

Along with the grants to employees, Vilsack mentioned the USDA would quickly be saying one other $700 million assist program to ship cash to meals processors, farmers markets, distributors and different meals distributors affected by the pandemic.

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