Latino Valley leaders send letter to Gov. Newsom asking for more support for farmworkers

Coronavirus

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — More than 40 Latino leaders across the Central Valley sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday asking for more support for farmworkers.

Some of those who signed the letter included Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, Council President Miguel Arias, Councilman Luis Chávez and Councilman Nelson Esparza.

“Who is most being impacted? It’s the farmworker community. They can’t afford to miss work because guess what? They don’t get sick leave. If they miss one or seven days of work or two weeks, there goes half their rent payment,” Soria said.

“There are a number of Latino leaders across the Central Valley that feel a sense of urgency that hasn’t been really reflected on the decisions all the way from the federal government down to our County Board of Supervisors, where we have not seen direct investment to really kind of turn back around what has been happening to the farmworker community,” she said.

As a daughter of retired farmworkers, Soria said she felt a responsibility to speak up for not just the city of Fresno.

“I also feel a sense of responsibility to speak up on this issue much more globally because I am a daughter of farmworkers and it reminds me of my parents, it reminds me of my mom and my dad, their inability to pay for a COVID-19 test because they didn’t have health insurance or their inability to take time off because they didn’t get paid sick leave,” she said. “It could be our neighbor, it could be our relative.”

Newsom has promised $52 million to the Central Valley, but Soria said more is needed to better support essential farmworkers, something community-based organizations have also been pushing for.

On Tuesday, Fresno County signed a contract with the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) for around $5 million to ramp up COVID-19 efforts. The EOC will then work with community-based organizations, who have drafted a plan.

That plan includes:

  • A health education curriculum covering public health principles, contact tracing and COVID-19 response efforts.
  • Prevention efforts with more than 100 community health workers deployed throughout the county speaking collectively at least 12 languages to promote testing clinics and events.
  • Financial support to allow essential workers to properly isolate

“What becomes a major barrier for our families in the valley is being able to stay home and losing out on pay,” said Dr. Tania Pacheco-Werner, the assistant director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, which helped draft the plan. “For us, it’s really ‘how do we provide them the support?'”

On Wednesday, Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said he met with members of the agriculture industry and advocates on Tuesday and they’re trying to form a “work group” to address the challenges agriculture workers are facing as well as try to find better ways to test in rural areas.

“This is a very vulnerable population, but at the same time, they’re a very essential population because they’re the ones that really keep food in our grocery stores and get food on our table,” Vohra said.

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