WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Many industries and businesses are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Maine's lobster and fishing industries are among the worst affected. Now, federal funding is on the way to help keep the industry from going belly-up.
Members of the Maine Congressional delegation—U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden—announced $20,166,476 in federal funding on Thursday. The funds are being awarded to Maine lobstermen, fishermen, and other Mainers working in the seafood supply chain, according to a release from the delegation.
The funding is part of the $300 million secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act specifically for fishery-related businesses.
“The hardworking men and women in Maine’s lobster and fishing industries are facing severe financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed restaurants and reduced exports,” members of the delegation said in a letter to the Trump administration. “This targeted relief will provide crucial support for workers, help our seafood supply chains survive, and assist the families and communities that depend on this important economic sector.”
But Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, said Thursday that $20 million won't go far after it's distributed to fishermen, seafood dealers, the working waterfront and all other fishing-related workers.
Martens said $20 million is "a nice start," but that with a lobster industry previously worth half a billion dollars, "If we lose even a fraction of that, $20 million doesn't even start to make us whole."
Martens said Maine's Congressional delegation is working hard to secure additional funding for the seafood industry.
Pingree and Golden called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to provide more relief in a bipartisan letter on Thursday. They're urging House leaders to include in upcoming relief legislation at least $2 billion to purchase seafood and distribute it to local governments and nonprofit organizations, as well as an additional $1.5 billion in direct assistance to the fishing industry, building on the $300 million that was already secured in the CARES Act.
The delegation said in its release that it is urging the administration to quickly release the urgently needed funds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is allocating funds proportionately based on a multi-year average of the total annual revenue of each region’s commercial fishing, charter fishing, processor, and aquaculture sectors. This method allows NOAA to utilize data that are readily available while accounting for regional variability in the size of commercial, charter, processor, and aquaculture industries.
These funds may be awarded on a rolling basis, and within a fishing season, to ensure rapid delivery of funds during the pandemic, the release said.
NOAA is expected to be releasing guidance on its rollout plan, including more information on eligibility and how this funding will be distributed, sometime on Thursday.
In general, states will work in collaboration with their regional fisheries commissions to develop specific state spend plans. In Maine, the Maine Department of Marine Resources will lead the effort in coordination with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
RELATED: Maine Coast Fishermen's Association holds 'Day of Action' Friday to assist fishermen in applying for financial relief due to COVID-19 pandemic
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