WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ), today sent a letter urging Senate and House leadership to increase 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.
Multiple times a year, more than 300,000 children relocate throughout the country with their families who are seeking seasonal agricultural work. In New Jersey alone, approximately 20,000 migrant farmworkers arrive in the state every year for agricultural work and many bring along their children.
With COVID-19 spreading increasingly and disproportionately through migrant farmworker communities, and with schools and summer programs that migrant families often rely on shut down, there is an acute need to provide additional support for migrant children.
“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 Interstate Migrant Education Council (IMEC) strongly supports this request for a supplemental appropriation of $300 million for Title I, Part C of ESSA in a fourth Coronavirus relief package. Passage by Congress would ensure that our nation is taking care of the children of essential worker families who have continued to put food on America's tables throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Francisco Garcia, Executive Director of the Interstate Migrant Education Council, said. “The children of America's essential farm-worker and food processing workers are an invisible minority in this country and are being especially impacted by COVID-19. It is extremely important that Congress include the requested $300 million for Title 1, Part C of ESSA which will help meet the academic, social/emotional and health needs of our K-12 migratory students.”
In the letter, 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 Warren (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Feinstein (D-CA), Menendez (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), Sanders (D-VT), Heinrich (D-NM), Wyden (D-OR), Brown (D-OH), Udall (D-NM), and Merkley (D-OR), as well as Representatives Vargas (D-CA), Garcia (D-TX), Castro (D-TX), Jackson Lee (D-TX), and McGovern (D-MA).
Full text of the letter is available here.