The city plans to use some of its federal coronavirus relief to help essential workers.
Green Bay’s city government plans to use one-sixth of its federal coronavirus relief funding to disburse $100,000 in direct assistance to essential employees, including meatpackers, according to a spending plan included in a meeting agenda.
The direct assistance, up for consideration Tuesday at the city’s Redevelopment Authority, comes from the $596,000 relief grant the city received from the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. Another $80,000 would go to homelessness assistance, and $136,000 would go toward temporary Green Bay Conservation Corps jobs for unemployed residents.
The plan does not outline the nature of the proposed frontline worker assistance. It says the money would go toward people in “high-risk jobs” such as food processing facilities, grocery stores, and delivery services.
Kevin Vonck, Green Bay’s development director, said the city has not yet determined exactly how the assistance would be disbursed. He said more information would be available as the program is established “in the coming weeks.”
Meatpacking plants in the Green Bay area have been devastated by coronavirus infections among employees. More than 500 employees of just three plants had tested positive by the time Brown County stopped reporting numbers. Another roughly 150 cases were tied to the plants through contact tracing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating JBS and American Foods Group, where 290 and 203 employees were infected at last count, respectively. Workers alleged poor conditions at both.
Other food plants in Brown County, Saputo Cheese and Hansen Foods, are also believed to have outbreaks, but Saputo would only confirm “several” cases and Hansen declined to comment.
In mid-April, at least 30 grocery store employees nationwide had died from coronavirus, according to a CBS News report.
Labor activists and politicians have called for increased protections for frontline workers, such as mandatory employer-provided paid sick leave, a premium for working during the pandemic, and relaxed attendance policies.