Drawing from private donations, a foundation connected to the United Farm Workers Union is distributing $500 prepaid debit cards to undocumented West-Coast agricultural employees affected by the coronavirus.

The United Farm Workers Foundation, or UFW Foundation, plans to give away more than 21,500 cards to help alleviate the impacts of the coronavirus through the Essential Farm Worker Project, the group said in a news release July 22. The foundation also plans to distribute 900,000 face masks and has been distributing meals and food boxes to rural California families since the pandemic began in March.

Undocumented workers, who comprise a large segment of the American agricultural workforce, did not qualify for the various forms of coronavirus aid passed by U.S. Congress, though the federal government deemed farming an essential industry.

“The undocumented women and men who feed America have been left out of federal aid necessary to sustain their families during these challenging times,” Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the UFW Foundation, said in the release. “And yet, farm workers continue to risk their lives.”

Since the pandemic, the UFW has advocated for stricter rules from state and local governments to protect farmworkers from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

All adult undocumented workers on farms or dairies or in nurseries, greenhouses or packing houses in California, Oregon and Washington are eligible for the grants if they have not received other coronavirus-related assistance, such as the CARES Act stimulus checks or California’s Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants.

Workers may apply by calling the UFW Foundation at 661-501-4280 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays and from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. According to the release, callers may need to be patient and call more than once, due to high call volumes. 

Eligible farmworkers also may text the words “essential” or “esencial” to 877-877 to complete a prescreening survey and receive a call back.

For more information about the foundation and the project, visit www.ufwfoundation.org.

by Ross Courtney

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