BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Relief could be coming to farmworkers affected by drought as climate change continues to disrupt the workforce.
A bill introduced by Senator Melissa Hurtado aims to provide financial assistance to farmworkers struggling to afford basic necessities.
Farmworkers say they have been hit hard by drought. Senate Bill 1066 aims to protect them from the uncertainty of climate change by creating a program to hopefully lift farmworkers out of poverty.
“There’s some towns that are receiving portable water that some companies are bringing them because there isn’t any water. They give five gallons to each family. And I don’t think that’s enough, because there are some families that have a greater need and have more family in their household,” said Carina Carrillo.
Farmworkers say harsh conditions caused by the lack of water have left a dent in their income.
“During this drought we [agriculture workers] have worked less,” said Margarita Ortega.
Carina Carrillo and Margarita Ortega are community health workers.
Senator Melissa Hurtado said Senate Bill 10-66 can help workers like them afford necessities like food and fresh water.
“The drought caused $1.2 billion in direct costs to the agriculture industry and loss of more than 8,500 jobs.”
Senate Bill 10-66 was introduced by Hurtado and aims to create a program called the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project; a state-funded supplemental pay program that would give eligible farmworkers $1,000 a month for three years.
To be eligible, at least one member of the household must be a California resident, have worked as a farmworker for the entire period from March 11, 2020 to January 1, 2022, and all during the entirety of those dates, the household also must have received benefits under either the Cal Fresh Program or the California Food Assistance Program.
“It's an investment for the entire nation, because they provide the food that we all eat and need to survive,” said Senator Hurtado.
California Farm Foundation Executive Director Hernan Hernandez said every year, the drought worsens, and this bill can help make sure farmworkers are protected.
“We need to do more to ensure there’s safe drinking quality water in the Central Valley and this is a good steppingstone, so communities have that opportunity to drink safe quality water.”
Hurtado said the Latino Legislative Caucus has shown its support for the bill.
Carillo says she hopes that continues: “Hopefully they [politicians] can vote “yes,” so this program can take place. So, they can supply the need of the Central Valley. And yes, water is very necessary. Without water, there is scarcity, the drought continues, and the crops don’t amount to anything.”
Hurtado said it is not known how many farmworkers meet the eligibility requirements, but the bills budget request is $20 million in order to provide the monthly stipend to those who qualify and are in need. That still needs to pass through the legislature.