Collier County Commissioners vote to end COVID grant for migrant farmworkers. Here’s why

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Money helping thousands of the most vulnerable people in Collier County is now gone. Commissioners ended a COVID-19 grant for migrant farmworkers from the federal government.

Now, Healthcare Network in Immokalee won’t get the rest of the $1.2 million they were counting on.

There is no plan to make up for that lost funding either.

A six-member outreach team aimed to provide migrant farmworkers with critical healthcare education on diabetes, heart disease, the COVID-19 vaccine, and the flu. That’s how Healthcare Network spent almost $167,000 of the COVID-19 Extra Mile Migrant Farmworker Grant.

With five “Aye” votes, that money is gone. On Valentines Day, the Collier County Commissioners voted unanimously to send the money back to the Centers for Disease Control. The county also said it would not accept the rest of the $1.2 million grant initially set to come to Collier County over four years.

Commissioner Bill McDaniels pushed to reject the money. He said there are strings attached. “Because no matter what, if you’ve taken $1, and you’re obligated for the compliance to adhere to a mandate or a directive from one of those agencies.”

Agencies like the CDC. McDaniel wouldn’t say what kind of mandate he’s protecting the people in Immokalee from. He said he is committed to ensuring Healthcare Network gets funding in some other way.

“The bottom line is, even though they’re limited, there are other ways to get that support to the healthcare network to ensure that that community has the proper assets avail to it,” said McDaniel.

Commissioner Rick LoCastro made a similar promise but with his own string. “We’ve got to make sure that we pivot quickly and figure out, you know, where the shortfalls are and how those are going to be funded. And, a lot of that is on the Healthcare Network because they’re the ones that were providing that service.”

WINK News also reached out to commissioners Chris Hall, Burt Saunders, and Dan Kowal for comment. They all refused.

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