This week, Santa Barbara County joined Housing for the Harvest, a new program to provide temporary hotel housing options for farmworkers and food processing employees to self-isolate.
Created by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the program aims to help the employees who cannot properly self-isolate at home, whether it be because of congregate living spaces or multi-family units. This includes agricultural workers who are COVID-19 positive but do not require hospitalization, or workers who have been exposed, according to officials.
Local governments identify administrators to provide services such as meals, wellness checks and in-language assistance. These administrators can include a county or city agency, a Native American tribe, nonprofits or philanthropic organizations. They serve as the points of contact for the eligible workers.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is partnering with the local Family Service Agency to manage Housing for the Harvest.
Eventually, the program will be available statewide and also provide opt-in housing support for any counties or regions interested.
The program is free of charge for those eligible, as California received FEMA approval and will seek federal reimbursement for 75% of hotel costs.
According to Jackie Ruiz, spokeswoman for the county Public Health Department, the housing will follow in the steps of the other organizations who have used hotels and motels to house individuals during the pandemic. There will be certain sections of the hotel (or the entire hotel) designated for potential or confirmed COVID-19 patients, who are then not permitted to leave their rooms.
The maximum stay for each individual is 14 days, but it varies based on if an individual has tested positive and/or shown symptoms.
Farmworkers or food processing workers in Santa Barbara County who are in need of these services are encouraged to call Family Service Agency at 805-325-5341.
If a county or community organization is interested in becoming a regional administrator, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Grayce McCormick