Summary: New NCDA&CS program will reimburse growers for food and lodging expenses for H2A farmworkers who must quarantine due to COVID-19. The $2 million in funding for the program comes through federal CARES Act money distributed to states.
I am happy to report that this past week we began a new reimbursement program for growers that covers food and lodging expenses for H2A workers who must be quarantined due to COVID-19.
I want to make sure farmers know that a total of $2 million will be available through this program. It will cover expenses incurred from March 11, 2021 through the 2021 growing season.
The N.C. General Assembly provided funding from some of the federal CARES Act money that came to North Carolina. We have been working out the details and getting information and the application online to make it easy for growers to apply. We will accept applications from now through Dec. 15, 2021, or until program funds run out.
I have said many times, that farmworkers are critical to agriculture, but that has been even more evident throughout this pandemic. The H2A program is a critical component in planting and harvesting of North Carolina commodities.
Whether we make the connection or not, we all depend on farmers and farmworkers for the food we eat, so having a healthy workforce is essential.
This program will allow growers to safely quarantine workers who test positive for COVID-19 and hopefully minimize spread to their coworkers and others.
Under the program, growers that have farmworkers with valid H2A visas will be eligible for reimbursement of the cost of meals and lodging for the duration of the quarantine period. Reimbursable expenses cannot exceed federal rates.
Growers have to cover the initial eligible expenses out-of-pocket first on behalf of the farmworker.
I am grateful the N.C. legislature agreed to fund this program with CARES Act funds. We will work to get the reimbursements out to farmers as quickly as possible.
The only thing I would add is that getting farmworkers vaccinated remains a priority and many farms have been able to get workers vaccinated onsite through local vaccine teams that are working in their communities.
I applaud the efforts of these teams, the Department of Health and Human Services, local health departments, farmworker groups and extension offices, AND the willingness of farmworkers to get vaccinated. Keep up the good work!