Information provided by the Office of State Assemblyman Robert Rivas.
In a Sept. 28 press release, State Assemblyman Robert Rivas said Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed AB 2043 and AB 2165, two pieces of the California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package by Rivas and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was also a lead author of AB 2043.
AB 2043 will go into effect immediately, while AB 2165 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. The release said it is the nation’s first legislative package to protect agricultural workers against the coronavirus and garnered bipartisan support as it passed the Legislature in August.
“This is a major victory for California’s most vulnerable essential workers—farmworkers,” said Rivas. “I am grateful to the Governor for his signature on AB 2043 and AB 2165, which will help protect agricultural communities against the spread of COVID-19 and ensure workers have access to critical workplace safety information and essential state services during this pandemic. I am proud to have worked with such a broad coalition of supporters to make this a reality. We brought everyone to the table, including Republicans, Democrats, growers, farmworkers, advocates, state agencies, and industry representatives to craft this prudent package of legislation which will save lives.”
The release said that according to recent studies, agricultural workers in Monterey County are three times more likely to contract the coronavirus than those in the general population, and Latinos in the county account for 93% of COVID-19 cases while only representing 61% of the population. Similarly, a study from UCLA shows Latino deaths have quintupled since May because of their status as “unsung essential workers,” such as agricultural workers.
California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package
AB 2043: Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety
—Ensures enforcement by Cal/OSHA of its COVID-19 guidance, funds a targeted bilingual outreach campaign to educate agricultural workers on Cal/OSHA guidance, as well as COVID-19-related paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits, and directs Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations related to the agricultural industry.
AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act (R. Rivas) – passed with bipartisan support, signed by Governor
—Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a problem in many farmworker and other rural communities.
Request for Temporary COVID-19 Housing for Agricultural Workers (R. Rivas) – Governor took executive action.
—After formal requests in March and April, followed by a $25M Budget Request in May, to expand the Administration’s Project Roomkey and Homekey programs, Gov. Newsom announced the “Housing for the Harvest” program in July to provide safe, temporary isolation spaces for sick or at risk agricultural workers.
Request for Prioritization of Agricultural Workers for PPE and COVID-19 Testing (R. Rivas) – Governor took executive action.
—After formal requests in March and April, Gov. Newsom announced in May that his Administration would be ramping-up testing availability for rural and other under-served communities and again in July that both testing and PPE access would be improved for agricultural workers.
AB 2164: Telehealth for Rural and Community Health Centers Act (R. Rivas, Salas) – passed with bipartisan support, vetoed by Governor to allow his administration to evaluate “its global telehealth policy to determine what temporary flexibilities should be extended beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
—Expands telehealth services for rural and community health centers, to the benefit of farmworker and other marginalized groups that have difficulty accessing medical care.