BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — We’re about a month and a half into the worst of the pandemic, and both local members of congress have been keeping busy. Unsurprisingly, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Congressman TJ Cox (D-Fresno) have been dealing with issues surrounding Kern’s biggest economic industries, like the safety of agriculture workers.
“We’re making sure we work through some PPE and others, on how to be able to do it. We did a number of calls early on where we brought the CDC on and others advising how we walk-through and how we treat this,” McCarthy said in a telephone news conference on Thursday, describing the needs of farm workers in the Central Valley amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many in the community have voiced concerns over the safety of farm workers since they often must work in close quarters with one another. Rep. Cox, who represents the 21st district, saying he’s talking with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about other ways to help farm workers.
“We’re putting together a plan right now that’s being presented to make sure our farm workers and people in our food supply are being tested," Cox said.
Late last year, Cox helped pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act through the House Of Representatives.
“Which provides a path to legalized status for so many of our farm workers. That is needed now more than ever," Cox Said.
Cox argues the bill is needed because farm workers are critical amid the pandemic. It has not yet gone to a vote in the senate.
But the ag industry isn’t the only backbone of Kern’s economy. The oil industry has been hit hard too. Leader McCarthy says he worked with President Trump to engage Saudi Arabia and Russia on a cut in oil production in April. It was a deal McCarthy says solved 25% of the problem, but the other 75% is the current oil supply and demand imbalance.
“This is gonna be a real challenge for us. Of those 30 million, a lot are being laid off here in this community, so we’ve gotta get the energy price in a better, more stable condition. We’ve gotta get the supply and demand better, the economy stronger," McCarthy said.
The 30 million McCarthy referenced is the number of Americans who filed for unemployment in the past 6 weeks. Representative cox has posted a multitude of information and services that provide help on his website.