USDA Provides $700M in COVID Relief for Farmers and Food Workers

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
covid relief

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program

Overview: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that $700 million in grant funding for farmers and food workers will be available to assist with COVID pandemic-related health and safety expenses. 

Location: United States

Population: 333.3 million

Food policy category: Food services, food supply and distribution

Program goals: To refund both financial and physical or emotional health costs incurred by farmers and food workers during the pandemic and to help revitalize the economy.

How it works: Grant funding provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 will be available for farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers to offset costs related to the pandemic, including expenses for personal protective equipment, childcare, and COVID testing. 

Funds will be awarded through state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations that serve farmworkers and meatpacking workers. Applying agencies will reimburse farmworkers and meatpacking workers up to $600 per person for COVID-related expenses. Grants will range from five to fifty million dollars each. 

Once the request for applications is published in early fall, technical assistance for interested agencies will be available through the Agricultural Marketing Service

Twenty million dollars will be allocated to a pilot program specifically for front-line grocery workers. 

Progress to date: The funding was announced on September 7, 2021. Grant applications will be open for 60 days, starting in early fall. 

Why it is important: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in which to work, because of potential injuries, heat-related illnesses, pesticide exposure, pulmonary disease, hearing loss, and stress. The FFWR grant program recognizes the often marginalized essential workers who had no choice but to put their own health and safety at risk while working to provide food for the rest of the country and earn a living to support their families. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated, “[Farm and food workers] 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 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Mark Perrone agrees,  adding, “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.”

Program/Policy initiated: A request for applications will be announced in early fall 2021. 

Point of contact: 
USDA Press

Similar practices: This is the first federal relief fund specifically for farmers and food workers. Nonprofit organizations Justice for Migrant Women and Hispanics In Philanthropy raised funds for farmworkers under the Farmworkers’ Pandemic Relief Fund

Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted because funds have not yet been distributed. 

Learn more: 


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