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Following Reports of Over Forty COVID-19 Cases Among Farmworkers in his District, Assemblymember Rivas Urges the Governor for More Relief

For immediate release:

SALINAS - On April 24, 2020, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) sent Governor Gavin Newsom a letter requesting urgent steps to protect farmworkers and the food supply chain in the wake of COVID-19. Following reports of forty-one agricultural workers being diagnosed with COVID-19 in Monterey County, Rivas urged the Governor to take further action to ensure farmworkers throughout the State have adequate access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and temporary housing to allow for necessary social distancing.


“I appreciate the action Governor Newsom has taken to protect farmworkers,” said Rivas. “Recent executive orders extended paid sick leave to two weeks, established a Disaster Relief Fund to assist immigrant workers, and created a limited expansion of testing to underserved communities. But recent indications of disproportionate COVID-19 cases among farmworkers in my District demonstrate the need for urgent, additional relief. Farmworkers’ inability to socially distance and access healthcare leaves them particularly vulnerable to the virus.”


Today, “Monterey County health officials said agricultural workers are over represented among local COVID-19 cases. They said 41 people, about 25% of those who have tested positive, identified themselves as working in the agricultural industry.” According to the report, “Officials believe they are seeing more cases there because they may spend a lot of time with coworkers, work in close proximity for long periods of time or live in large households.”


Recently, on April 17, 2020, Monterey County sent Governor Newsom a request for “immediate assistance” in securing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – including 180,000 facial coverings – and prioritizing COVID-19 testing and supplies for their farmworkers. “We are concerned that without State assistance to provide a significant amount of the PPE needed, and resources to expand COVID-19 testing,” wrote the County, “we will not be able to adequately reduce COVID-19 transmission risks among the vulnerable farmworker community.”


Rivas said, “Many farmworkers throughout the state live, work and travel in crowded conditions without the ability to socially distance, isolate, or access PPE or testing for COVID-19. Classified as essential workers, they are the backbone of California’s $50 billion-per-year agricultural industry, which supplies a large percentage of the nation’s food supply. Farmworkers go to work every day to put food on all of our tables. They are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.”


Together with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Assemblymember Rivas recently introduced the first COVID-19 relief package in the nation focused on farmworkers. The legislation includes expanded paid sick leave, supplemental hazard pay to cover increased health and childcare costs, a bilingual outreach campaign to educate workers on personal protection practices, expanded telehealth for rural areas, temporary housing to reduce crowding and allow for social distancing, and a tax credit for farmers who offer overtime work to their workers.


Said Rivas, “I am confident that under the leadership of Governor Newsom, Assembly Speaker Rendon, and Senate President Pro Tempore Atkins, the Legislature can work together with local jurisdictions, agricultural communities, and other stakeholders to protect the health and safety of our frontline farmworkers and California’s diverse, critical food supply chain.”


For local information on COVID-19, including county recommendations that may be more restrictive than state guidelines, please stay informed at:


Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.