Farmworkers need help!

Photo of Manos Unidas

My name is Angelica. I am the outreach coordinator for Manos Unidas which is a non-profit that focuses on having accessible and affordable healthcare for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina.

The farmworker population has been severely affected by covid-19 because there are just so many variables that affect them. The primary one is the lack of financial support but also the lack of health care access. By that I mean office hours that are not limited for Monday through Fridays 9-5 PM. Then there is also food security which is very ironic because we are always running out of food for food drives because we give it all away to them. Then also support with school like all the kids going remote, some parents do not have anyone that can baby sit the children because they are the sole provider in their house, so they have to go out and work! And sometimes the parents are forced to send their kids to go to school even though deep down they want them to be in remote teaching. And another thing is when school makes it mandatory to only teach remotely and they close, and it makes it so much harder on the parents because then that means that the parent must stay home and not work or they must find somebody that can babysit. But again the price of them having to pay someone to babysit is sometimes equal to that of the pay they get for working one entire week in the farms. Then there is also the problem where some parents do not understand the language, so they are not able to help the children with their homework or they do not have computers to give their kids or internet access that enables them to do the work from home, so it is very challenging for some parents to be able to support their children.

Back to the financial support there is some assistance going around right now. For example the stimulus checks from the government, but unfortunately some of them do not qualify for those resources that are available so basically what it sounds like is if you are undocumented you cant meet the qualifications. It is unfair and thankfully there are some organizations that are now bringing light to the issue highlighting the data and bringing that to a stop. So the farmworkers have some resources and some assistance for them and for undocumented people and it has been helping a lot but you know there are millions and millions of farmworkers across the country and there are not that many organizations that are helping them And even if they are there are financial restrictions so its not good.

I was also talking about healthcare. So basically, clinics and hospitals are saying that they have access to healthcare, and they can sign up for assistance or adjusted costs or help with whatever they need which is great, but they are only available or open Monday through Friday from 9-5! And most farmworkers are still at work. I mean most work from sunup to sundown so it’s not beneficial because if they need something. They either have to take the day off or the afternoon off and find transportation and find someone who can interpret. Some places have interpreters but there are other places that down so there is something else that needs and answer. Now there has been a lot of changes where some clinics are starting to realize that maybe they should have one late night out of the week or maybe they should open later. Our program, for example, tries to reduce that barrier by having a mobile clinic that goes out to where the farmworkers are so after they get out of work. They can walk right over to our bus and get their medical needs met and its free and there are a lot of benefits but there are still plenty we cannot get and sometimes they need medical attention on a day we are not there so its nor perfect I mean we need a lot of organizations like us to truly make a big difference!

Then there is food security so what I mean by that is that a lot of people are being laid off either because they need to isolate after someone became sick or also because there are a lot of companies going bankrupt right now so they are laying off people and this is the one occurrence where it does not affect farmworkers as much as everyone else but there are still quite a few farmworkers that have been affected by this. But regardless they still have to pick each other up and associate with a lot of people just to be able to pay their rent and it is not safe and they interact to go buy groceries together and they go to the hospital for treatments for colds or whatever else. But its all so expensive and they do not get paid enough so it becomes a problem of them having to decide if they are going to eat or are they going to get a treatment. Do they pay a bill for the lights or do they pay their rent instead?

And like I was saying earlier with the schools these parents must worry about giving their kids breakfast and lunch and dinner whereas if schools were still in session since a lot of kids get breakfast and lunch there then they only had to worry about dinner but now it is every meal that they have to think about so those are additional costs that many can’t afford. So, some are fortunate enough to be able to give their kids all the meals, but others are really struggling to do that. Schools I think tried to help they gave qualifying parents a SNAP benefit which was basically a credit card for groceries so they could feed the children but that was only for like one or two months and then some schools gave food to be picked up for the kids, but the parents had to get the time off of work plus a ride to the school to get these meals to drop off for their kids if the school even offered it. Some schools did have bus drivers take the food home for the kids, but it was not everywhere unfortunately. There are so many kids and so many families going hungry and it is a painful and sad irony that they go hungry, but they are the main ones cultivating our foods or harvesting or cutting our meat or whatever. Now many orgs are partnering with food banks to try to meet the needs of farmworkers and that is a positive but sometimes you really think of everything and you think, wow what can I do. We do a lot but at the same time we do not do enough, and we have so much to do to help!

This story is part of a Agricultural Workers collection.