Last week, the Assembly passed a bill to mandate coronavirus guidelines for agricultural employers, which has been contested by farm groups. Adding to this, Asm. Robert Rivas (above) has a larger California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package with other COVID-related measures, which have also been progressing through the Legislature.

Rivas teamed up with Bakersfield’s Rudy Salas on Assembly Bill 2164 in January. It requires rural health clinics to adopt telemedicine practices to better serve remote communities. Rivas is also hoping to expand access to state courts through better e-filing options for documents, arguing this is “a serious problem in many farmworker and other rural communities.” The Assembly passed both bills last week.

In the ongoing budget negotiations, Rivas has been pushing for $25 million to provide temporary housing to farmworkers who must self-isolate after being exposed to COVID-19. While it is unclear how this stands, the Legislature is requesting a trailer bill measure related to farmworker housing development and about $6 million in community services block grants for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. In response to Rivas' AB 1783 signed into law last year, the budget will also exclude H-2A guestworkers from special funds for developing farmworker housing.

Rivas has had two other farmworker bills stall this year. One would have launched an awareness campaign on sexual assault. The other would have relieved farmers of some of the burden for paying overtime wage premiums during the pandemic. It had the backing of the California Farm Bureau.

A separate farmworker bill by Sen. Bill Monning, who, like Rivas, represents a Central Coast district, has also been progressing and may get a floor vote soon. Monning aims to mandate notifications for H-2A guestworkers of their rights when it comes to labor, housing, health and safety. 

The Legislature is also pushing back on the Newsom administration’s proposed funding cut for a farmworker health study led by Asm. Anna Cabballero of Salinas.