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Federal agencies have started to allocate COVID-19 relief funds and release guidance on how they will administer the programs created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

To stay up to date on the implementation of these programs, please visit the following websites:

  • NOAA – Updates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on COVID-19 from the National Marine Fisheries Service
  • SBA –COVID-19 related programs that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Emergency Grants, and Small Business Debt Relief
  • Department of Treasury – Information on the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as other tax provisions meant to help employers, including non-profits
  • USDA –Updates on how agricultural programs, loans, and other Department of Agriculture programs are being handled during COVID-19

The CARES Act included a variety of assistance for fishermen and the fishing industry:

  • $300 million for Fisheries Disaster Assistance
  • $350 billion in SBA loan forgiveness grants, which could be used to cover boat loans, payroll assistance, and other expenses
  • $9.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture to use to support agricultural producers, which includes seafood in some programs.
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance, for which self-employed fishermen are now eligible

At-sea monitors and Fishery Observer coverage has also been temporarily suspended through June 30, 2020 for Northeast fishing permits. For more updates on at-sea monitors and fishery observers, visit NOAA’s website here.

Assistance for Fishery Participants

On May 8, NOAA announced its plan for distributing the $300 million in assistance to fishery participants. On April 2 and April 29, Senators Markey and Warren urged NOAA that this process to be handled quickly, transparently, and in consultation with industry stakeholders and then for the immediate release of guidance. 

Massachusetts received $28 million in direct fisheries assistance, the third-highest award of any state. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (in conjunction with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) is currently assessing how to distribute the $28 million among fishery participants in Massachusetts who have incurred a 35% revenue loss, compared to the prior five-year average. Eligible fishery participants include tribes, persons, fishing communities, aquaculture businesses, processors, or other fishery-related businesses. Funds can be disbursed as direct payments and can be awarded on a rolling basis, within the fishing season, to ensure the rapid delivery of funds during the pandemic. More information on the state allocation process is on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission website here.

Support for Agricultural Producers

On May 5, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced a $20 million purchase in Atlantic haddock, pollock, and redfish. Senator Markey, Senator Warren, Representative Moulton, and Representative Keating championed the federal government in taking this step, writing to USDA in April and May to urge the inclusion of domestic and East Coast seafood companies in the deployment of the $9.5 billion awarded by the CARES Act for affected agricultural producers.

Producers that have a supply of Atlantic haddock, pollock, or redfish that are in a form accessible to food bank customers are encouraged to contact USDA. Producers will have to become an approved vendor to enter the solicitation process.

Section 32 purchases are one-time buys. USDA has separate programs, like the National School Lunch Program, which result in longer-term contracts. In order to get new fish or seafood products included in these programs, it may help to develop demand and have recipients (such as schools) directly convey their interest to USDA.

Small Business Administration Resources

There are two Small Business Administration (SBA) programs that are particularly useful for many small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 crisis: Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and the Payroll Loan Forgiveness Program (Paycheck Protection Program). Please find more details about SBA resources on my website here.