BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A new bill aimed at bringing relief to farmworkers affected by the drought is now one step closer to becoming law.
The bill, introduced by Senator Melissa Hurtado, aims to provide financial assistance to farmworkers struggling to afford basic necessities. Wednesday it passed in a state senate committee, four to one.
Senate Bill 1066 (see the full text below) was introduced by Hurtado and aims to create a program called the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project.
The project is a state-funded supplemental pay program that would give eligible farmworkers $1,000 for three years.
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, a community health worker.
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.”
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.
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.