Gov. Newsom urged by lawmakers, advocates to sign farmworker COVID-19 relief package

Lawmakers and advocates are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a COVID-19 relief package for farmworkers.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Farmworkers withstand enormous challenges on and off the job.

"One of our members in Monterey County, not only is she battling the unprecedented challenges of working, packing and harvesting during this historic pandemic and wildfire season, but cancer as well," said Irene De Barraicua with Líderes Campesinas, a network of women farmworker leaders.

"Not only being exposed to the virus, but also losing her job. She's lost four jobs during this pandemic, said De Barraicua.

A group of advocates and California lawmakers are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a COVID-19 farmworker relief package.

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The three bills - AB 2043, AB 2164, AB 2165 - would ensure enforcement by Cal/OSHA and oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic, expand telehealth services for rural and community health centers and expand the availability to electronic filing to all state trial courts due to difficult access in many rural communities.

"Many of our members have spoken up, have been testimonies to this, they've lost their jobs for speaking up," said De Barraicua about how COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces and communities have affected farmworkers.

Among other recent efforts, the state has helped distribute about 13 million surgical masks and other personal protective equipment to agricultural workers. A new state program provides a safe and temporary isolation space for farmworkers who test positive for COVID-19.

"California is committed to protecting the health and safety of our farmworkers, who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic working to keep the supply of safe, healthy food flowing throughout our state," Jesse Melgar, Newsom's press secretary, told Eyewitness News.

"Now is his chance. It's our governor's chance to honor the Latino residents of the state, our communities with action," said Assemblymember Robert Rivas, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Newsom has until the end of the month to sign the bills.

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