Ontario announces $10 million to protect farm workers
By Greenhouse Canada
By Greenhouse Canada
Today, Ontario announced $10 million in funding to allow more farmers and agri-food operators to protect their workers.
Under the redesigned Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program, funds are intended for purchase of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and redesigned workstations.
Under the expanded eligibility rules, farms and agri-food businesses that hire three or more employees will be eligible for funding. Previous requirements limited eligibility to businesses with at least five employees, said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs during the announcement.
Additional businesses and workers will be eligible as well, including corn detasselers, transporters, hatcheries, and primary processing (for example: cutting, cleaning, packaging, storage and refrigeration of raw plant foods to prevent food from spoiling before it reaches consumers).
“The funding will help farmers who experience unexpected costs for short-term or temporary housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-farm employees. In addition, increased flexibility has been built into the program to ensure it can respond to emerging issues and risks,” says the release.
Detailed program information and application forms will be available when intake opens on April 22. Cost coverage will be retroactive to March 13, 2021. Applications will be accepted while funding is available or until November 30.
The approval process has been simplified and will be expedited to help support workplace health and safety in the agri-food sector.
“We want to make it as simple as possible, so [employers] spend their time keeping their workers safe,” said Hardeman.
During the announcement, Hardeman said the province’s first phase of vaccinations is almost complete. Agricultural migrant workers are still scheduled to receive vaccinations during the second phase of the province’s vaccination strategy. Potential vaccinations at the airport are still in discussion.
When asked about the number of farm inspections conducted by different institutions at differing levels of government, Hardeman said they are working diligently to coordinate visits and reduce disruptions to farms.
With files from OMAFRA