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Udall, Heinrich Join Call to Strengthen Support for Children of Migrant Workers in the Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Despite “essential” designation and reports of increased COVID cases among farmworkers, last three Congressional COVID-19 relief packages have failed to designate additional funds to address unique needs of children of migrant farmworkers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined a bicameral group of 16 Democratic lawmakers colleagues in sending a letter to Senate leadership asking for increased funding dedicated to supporting the unique needs of the children of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic as a part of the next congressional relief package.

More than 300,000 children relocate throughout the country with their families who are seeking seasonal agricultural work multiple times throughout the year. Thus, there is an acute need to provide funding support for migrant children because the schools and summer programs that farmers typically rely on for childcare are shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Public health and medical services funding are also critical to address the disproportionate spread of COVID-19 through migrant farmworker communities, which are predominantly Hispanic and among the most vulnerable populations currently suffering from the pandemic.

“The security of our nation’s food supply hinges on migrant farmworkers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Yet none of the COVID-19 relief packages that Congress has passed so far this year have included funding specifically supporting the children of migrant farmworkers. As harvesting season approaches for much of the country, and as increasing reports emerge of COVID-19 outbreaks at farm and meat processing facilities, there is an urgent need to strengthen public supports for migrant children. Supplemental funding for the ESSA Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program would leverage existing programs to meet this pressing demand.”

The lawmakers requested an additional $300 million for the Migrant Education Program (MEP) and $350 million for the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program (MSHS) in the next COVID-19 supplemental package to:

  • Provide health, hygiene, and counseling services and other social-emotional supports to migrant children, whose family members are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and falling ill from the virus.
  • Secure personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies for MEP and MSHS facilities to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health authorities’ guidelines.
  • Hire additional teaching and support staff necessary to continue providing services to qualified children while complying with CDC guidelines, including social distancing guidelines.
  • Purchase technology to enable distance learning, including laptops and internet hotspots, and cover costs associated with instructional software, training and support to ensure that migrant children and families can access virtual classrooms and other learning opportunities.
  • Operate virtual and in-person learning centers and migrant summer school for school-aged children whose schools are closed due to COVID-19.
  • Transport the children of migrant farmworkers, in compliance with CDC social distancing guidelines, to MEP and MSHS facilities.

The letter was also signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), as well as Representatives Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and James McGovern (D-Mass.).

Full text of the letter is available here.