New bill to provide cash aid to farmworkers

Senate Bill 1066 will aid low-income farmworkers based on individual financial needs if signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom

SACRAMENTO – As water becomes scarce in the valley, so does job security, which is why Senator Hurtado is pushing a bill that would give financial assistance to low-income farmworkers.

Senate Bill 1066 has just landed on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for approval after being passed by the Senate Floor on Aug. 30. Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) pushed the bill, also known as the Farmworker’s Drought Resilience Pilot Project, to provide eligible farmworkers with state-funded supplemental cash assistance under the implementation of the Department of Social Services (DSS).

“Drought is impacting farmers and farm workers. We know that there [are] hour shortages and that farm workers have to travel farther distances to find work,” Hurtado said. “We wanted to be able to provide some support.”

Senator Hurtado first originally pushed the bill that would provide $1,000 to eligible farmworkers monthly for three years, however that bill had to be amended to fit the current structure of the DSS. The DSS is a state department that provides financial assistance to low-income residents. After being amended, SB 1066 will supplement cash aid calculated based on the specific needs of the individual farmworker, so there is no set amount. SB 1066 will mimic the structure of the DSS current assistance programs.

Currently, 2022 is the driest year in 100 years, according to the State of California Drought Action. Since Tulare County sits at one of the highest crop producing valleys in the state, roughly a quarter of jobs are agriculturally driven, according to the US Climate and Health Alliance (USCHA). This means severe drought translates into economic hardship and lack of opportunity for many farmworkers, reported the USCHA. 

“When we talk about food security, when we talk about our food supply chain, and our food system, our workers are the most important component of having a thriving food system,” Hurtado said. “If we don’t have that, then our food system begins to fall apart.”

Hurtado is the daughter of agricultural workers and a close partner with the Farmworker Foundation. These experiences are one of the driving forces behind this bill, as many in the valley have voiced the hardship drought can bring on farmworkers and their families.

“I knew that back in the day when the weather wasn’t being the friendliest to the valley, that was a bad thing for families, and particularly agricultural employees,” Hurtado said. “First hand I know how difficult it can be not just for the farmer or the grower, but also the farm worker, their family and their children.”

This bill comes after Hurtado was able to get Senate Bill 464 passed last session, also known as the Comida Para Todos (Food for All) Act. This bill allowed low-income workers to become eligible for food security assistance if they were denied based on immigrant status. The bill will impact undocumented seniors who were not able to receive CalFresh benefits prior to the bill passing. 

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