New initiative will be created using federal CDBG CARES Act funds to help farms reduce spread of coronavirus, protect workforce
√ $10 million will go toward Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program to improve farmworker housing
√ $15 million will go to a farmworker housing revolving loan program
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new, $25 million package in grants and loans to improve housing conditions for farmworkers and to protect the health and safety of this critical workforce. The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program will fund the rehabilitation and replacement of existing substandard farmworker housing. Grants are available from New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) through Federal Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funding, which provides resources to municipalities to improve housing and community facilities in response to COVID-19. In addition, the state oversees a $15 million Farmworker Housing Program, a revolving loan program designed to improve farmworker housing, through which farmers can apply for up to $200,000 per farm.
"The New Yorkers who work hard to keep our farms operating deserve housing that is safe, secure, and does not jeopardize their health or wellbeing," Hochul said. "Many of these individuals often reside in congregate housing already in need of rehabilitation, and with the risks still posed by COVID-19, it's critical we get this work underway as soon as possible. Thanks to this funding, we can make that a reality and ensure these hardworking New Yorkers have a suitable place to call home."
For the Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program, municipalities may apply for grants of up to $1 million to support a farm or group of farms with five to 10 housing units in need of rehabilitation or replacement to address issues such as environmental hazards, outdated air filtration systems, and to provide essential personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer.
Grants must benefit low- to moderate-income individuals with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income, and work must be completed within 12-18 months of award.
Applications are available online at https://hcr.ny.gov/cdbg-cares.
The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program complements the New York State Farmworker Housing Program, which was created more than 20 years ago to help farms provide safe and appropriate housing for their employees. The program is administered by Farm Credit East in partnership with New York State Homes and Community Renewal and provides no-interest loans to finance improvement of existing housing or the construction or purchase of new housing for farmworkers. New York agricultural producers, including fruit, vegetable, greenhouse and nursery, equine and dairy operations, are eligible to apply.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, "New York's farmworkers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on our tables. We owe it to them to make sure their living conditions do not put them at additional risk for COVID-19 exposure. I'll keep fighting to protect farmworkers and keep New York's agricultural community strong."
Farm Credit East Vice President and NYS FWH program coordinator Mike Haycook said, "The New York State Farm Worker Housing loan program has been a tremendous tool for farms seeking to build or improve housing for their farm workers. Farm Credit East is pleased to partner with the state of New York on these programs that help both farms and the workers they rely on."
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, "New York's farmers value the men and women who perform essential work on our farms. This includes providing safe housing for our employees. The grant and loan programs announced today will assist farmers to construct new housing and modernize their facilities. New York Farm Bureau has been a longtime advocate for the Farmworker Housing Program, and we commend Gov. Hochul for continuing the effort and making grant dollars available to farms that have been on the front lines protecting farmworkers during the pandemic."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Farmworkers provide an invaluable service by assuring New Yorkers have access to fresh, nutritious food. They deserve to live in affordable, dignified housing that keeps them safe and healthy, especially as we begin to emerge from the COVID pandemic. The initiatives announced today will go a long way toward helping farmers improve housing conditions for workers, and reduce the spread of coronavirus. I want to thank my colleagues at NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and our friends at Farm Credit East for partnering with us on this important effort to invest in New York's farms and reduce the hardships on this critical workforce.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program and the New York State Farm Worker Housing Program are critical resources, allowing our farmers to invest in updated or new housing for their employees. As part of our work on the agriculture labor advisory group, which was formed several years ago, the state emphasized the importance of housing improvements for the safety and welfare of our year-round and seasonal workers who are essential to bringing food to our communities. Thanks to the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal, and its partnership with Farm Credit East, our farmers have a unique opportunity to access much-needed funding in this area, and I encourage them to consider applying for the programs."
For more information on the Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program go to: https://hcr.ny.gov/cdbg-cares#farmworker-housing-grants. For more information on the Farmworker Housing Program go to: https://hcr.ny.gov/farmworker-housing-program-fwh or FarmCreditEast.com.