The Labor Department Monday unveiled a $14.8 million program to help thousands of migrant and seasonal farm workers who have been unable to work because of the drought.
"The severe drought in some parts of the nation has had a devastating effect on migrant farm workers and their families," said Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin. "Some are stranded without work or money to return home, while others face extreme hardship at their home base."McLaughlin said the Labor Department would marshal funds for "emergency and supportive services" and promised to be flexible and quick in making decisions about spending.
She said in a statement that she also was writing to state governors and agencies to recommend "special employment services and unemployment insurance consideration for migrant farm workers."
McLaughlin said she has authorized existing migrant worker programs operating under Labor Department grants to use up to 15 percent of their current funding for emergency services such as health care, transportation and temporary shelter. The agency said that could mean up to $9.5 million may be spent.
She said another $5 million has been set aside from a Job Partnership Training Act reserve account for displaced workers to be used specifically for migrant farm workers hurt by the drought.
She said a $300,000 discretionary fund is being set up to provide additional emergency and support services for areas that have exhausted other resources.
The Labor Department also said portions of some states may be declared disaster areas, triggering a disaster unemployment insurance program.
Twenty-two states have asked the Department of Agriculture to be designated drought-disaster areas.
They are Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.