RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has set aside money to reimburse farmers who bore the financial toll of quarantining their workers during the COVID-19 outbreak last year, a state agency said.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the state has made $2 million available for farmers who employ immigrant farmworkers with H-2A work visas that allow them to work temporarily in the U.S., a news outlet reported Thursday.
Funding for the department’s COVID-19 Farmworker Quarantine Reimbursement program comes from federal CARES Act money approved by the state legislature. The application period opened April 14 and will continue through Dec. 15, or until program funds are exhausted, the department said.
The exact economic toll of COVID-19 is unknown across the roughly 1,000 farmers in the state who employ H-2A workers. Lee Wicker, deputy director of the N.C. Growers Association, estimates that “the loss of productivity and yield would be in the millions of dollars across the state.”
Approximately 20,000 H-2A farmworkers will come to North Carolina to work the 2021 agricultural season, a majority of them from Mexico, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.