IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Millions of farmworkers are still working the fields as the backbone of the food supply chain in the United States.
But many are facing uncertain times at home financially — and for some, government aid is not an option.
“RCMA is always here to help our families, especially in need, especially in a crisis, they’ve always been available to help and do as much as we can,” said Marisol Avellaneda.
Avellaneda is a center coordinator in Immokalee for Redlands Christian Migrant Association.
Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) got started in 1965 to care for children of migrant and low-income rural families.
The non-profit Serves 6,500 children annually at child daycare centers and charter schools across the state, including in Lee and Collier County.
But now, as many farmworkers face financial hardships amid the Coronavirus crisis, RCMA also providing economic relief to the families it serves.
“Since all this started going on, we’ve been distributing food, basic needs, and pay for rental assistance and utilities,” said Avellaneda.
Basic needs include baby formula, diapers, cleaning products, and bandanas for workers to use as face masks.
RCMA has been able to provide this relief using funds from grants.
“In the beginning, work stopped but after a few days and realizing this was going to last a while, we started to get a few hours, 2, 3, 4 a day,” said Mynor Gabriel.
Gabriel is a farmworker in Immokalee, who also works with RCMA.
He’s felt first hand the economic impact of the Coronavirus.
Approximately 50% of RCMA families have reported a significant loss of income due to job loss.
“We knew there was going to be a loss of income, so we started to apply for grants here in Collier and Lee County,” said Gloria Padilla.
Padilla is the RCMA area coordinator for Lee and Collier County.
In the past month, RCMA has applied for more than $1 million in emergency assistance grants and received about $150,000 in grants and individual donations so far.
Padilla says many of the families they serve don’t qualify for government assistance.
“We know they don’t qualify for SNAP, they don’t qualify for federal funding, so these are the families that fall between the cracks and they are the undocumented families,” said Padilla.
Padilla says she’s approved rent assistance for at least 12 families in the past month.
“With organizations like us non-profits, we’re able to serve these families so they can make it through this crisis,” said Padilla.
Padilla hopes to get additional grants and support from the community to be able to continue to help more migrant farm working families.
To donate and learn more about RCMA, click here.