Community Action Partnership of Kern has launched the Housing for the Harvest Program, a program that provides temporary hotel housing options for essential farm and food processing employees who are either COVID19 positive or exposed, who do not require hospitalization, to have safe and suitable places to isolate and are unable to do so at home.
The state-funded program, initiated by Governor Gavin Newsom in July, provides temporary, emergency non-congregate shelter for essential employees in the food and agriculture sector.
“Obviously here in the Central Valley and in other agricultural communities, this is really where the need,” said James Burger the outreach and advocacy coordinator for CAPK. “(Housing for the Harvest) designed to help whoever it is, because no matter who we are — documented, undocumented — wherever we come from, if we’re sick with COVID-19, we impact everyone around us.”
He continued: “This is about the health of our whole community, and by helping the farm worker community we help everybody; farm workers are the ones who harvest our food and are critical to our food supply.”
The state will secure hotel rooms in participating counties and will partner with local governments to identify local administrators who will provide additional sheltering support, such as meals, wellness checks and additional services.
That’s where CAPK comes in. Burger said CAPK is contracting with local hotels and is providing three meals a day, health checks, laundry services, and transportation to those in this program.
“(The program) helps our community as well if we can make more progress against COVID-19 and reduce Kern County’s status on the states reopening timeline,” Burger said. “Then we can reopen safely sooner. It’s a great program because it provides safety for agricultural workers, (and) we’re proving food through local restaurants, which gives financial support to the community.”
The Housing for the Harvest program is made to help the backbone of California and to slow down the speared if COVID-19.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural workers have played an essential role in ensuring the continuity of our food supply. However, there have been many outbreaks reported in this industry, causing workers to take the virus home to their families because they have nowhere to isolate in their homes.
“We’ve seen a higher rate in infections in those areas so it’s important to break that progression of the disease by helping those folks isolate, and we do that by putting them in hotel rooms for the two weeks it takes to go through the process of being COVID negative,” said Burger. “That way they have what they need and be able to take care of themselves while not endangering their loved one.”
The program support services not only include hotel rooms, but it also includes outreach efforts, according to a press release. State agencies will inform employers and agricultural and food processing worker groups about the availability of this resource.
Those eligible for the program must work in California food processing or agriculture industry; must meet FEMA non-congregate sheltering criteria for COVID-19; have tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed as documented by a state or local public health official, or medical health professional); and be unable to self-isolate or quarantine at home.
Burger said, “Housing for the Harvest is another chance to be part of a program in cooperation with the county and the other partners to help more folk and give them a chance to stay safe stay healthy.”