Meatpacker says it will give money to Hyrum, Utah, where a coronavirus outbreak sickened workers

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum, Thursday, June 18, 2020.

JBS USA, which owns the beef plant in Hyrum where 385 employees tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this summer, said Thursday it will donate $1.7 million to causes in and around the town.

A news release from the company said the money will target three issues: food insecurity, community infrastructure and well-being. Awards will be made by the end of the year. Organizations can apply or community members can make suggestions on where to send funds by emailing hometownstrong@jbssa.com.

The money for Hyrum is part of a $50 million initiative in communities with JBS plants. JBS is owned by a Brazilian conglomerate that reported net revenue of $51.7 billion in 2019, according to news outlets that cover the meatpacking industry.

Jenifer Anderson, advancement director at The Family Place, which provides programming and support to children in Cache County, said that organization will apply for some of the $1.7 million. Anderson said The Family Place provided aid to families who lost work when they contracted COVID-19 at the beef plant or from someone who did.

“We know there are needs there and [the JBS donations] will help meet the needs for the residents in Hyrum," Anderson said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Father Rogelio Felix-Rosas, shows one of the rooms fill of food that has been donated to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, which was supporting more than 50 families impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum, Thursday, June 18, 2020.

The outbreak at the plant happened in May and June and increased the coronavirus case counts throughout Cache County and southeast Idaho. Joshua Greer, spokesman for the Bear River Health Department, which covers Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties in Utah, said there have been no deaths associated with the outbreak.

Most of the plant’s workers are immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Claudia Mendez set up a Facebook page to help Spanish speakers impacted by the pandemic, Latinos Unidos Covid-19 Cache Valley.

Thursday, Mendez welcomed news of the donations and hoped JBS would use it to create a safety net for its workers.

“I think money is good but as long as that money goes to the people and the working conditions improve," Mendez said.

Matt Whitaker, director of the Cache Community Food Pantry, said in June that demand there mushroomed after the JBS outbreak, and long before that happened JBS was donating pallets full of hamburger to his food pantry.

Hyrum Mayor Stephanie Miller, in the JBS news release, said JBS is a great company to have in her town.

“They provide employment that brings well-paying jobs helping their employees to take care of their families," Miller said. "Through the years they have been supportive with services and commodities for city events. I am appreciative of the working partnership we have with them. We are fortunate to have JBS as part of our community!”

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