The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 15 non-profits over $600 million in Farm and Food Workers Relief Program grants to assist farm workers, meatpackers, and grocery workers nationwide with direct COVID-19 related relief payments. Farm workers, meatpackers, and grocery workers were classified by the federal government as “essential workers” during the height of the pandemic. Milwaukee-based nonprofit UMOS will receive about $56.9 million to implement the program in 13 states. It’s the largest grant in the history of UMOS, which was established in 1965. UMOS has doubled in size during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing its market service territory from 7 states to 13. It has increased its annualized grant contract revenue from $53 million at the end of 2021 to almost $100 million today. A one-time direct payment of $600 will be made to over 75,000 eligible applicants nationwide within a two-year period. In Wisconsin, UMOS plans to disperse more than $8.9 million in checks and/or debit cards to over 10,000 eligible agricultural workers (including dairy) and approximately 4,800 meatpackers throughout the state. “We applaud USDA for appropriating direct relief payments for eligible frontline farmworkers, meatpackers, and grocery workers to help defray costs associated with previous or on-going purchases of personal protective equipment and other expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic such as testing, quarantining, vaccinations, childcare costs and other reasonable and necessary personal, family and or living expenses,” said Lupe Martinez, president, and chief executive officer of UMOS. UMOS will deliver services directly in Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas. UMOS plans to partner with other non-profit organizations in Florida, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, and Nebraska to identify eligible workers and assist with the application process. UMOS and its partners will outreach to farm workers and meatpacking workers and their employers, accept and process applications, collect verifications, determine eligibility, and issue payments while maintaining strong financial controls which ensure funds get into the hands of eligible workers. “We are especially happy to see frontline agricultural workers recognized for their contributions to the nation’s workforce and the food supply chain. Oftentimes they are overlooked in federal agricultural relief efforts,” Martinez said.
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