BRUNSWICK, Maine — Following a webinar Thursday afternoon, the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association is holding a "Day of Action" Friday, offering fishermen, crew and harvesters personal assistance in applying for unemployment and newly-funded national disaster relief programs during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
Ben Martens, executive director of the MCFA, urged those who want to apply for the programs to apply on Friday.
"Because of how quickly we believe this money is going to move, we are encouraging anybody who wants to participate in these projects to do so tomorrow," Martens said Thursday. "The money may not be available tomorrow, but you need to start working on your applications, you need to start talking to your banks, you need to start lining up all your paperwork now if you want to get in line."
MCFA is providing mentors today to help fishermen, crew and harvesters apply for various programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The webinar focused on two federal programs, the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Both funds were shut down last week when they ran out of money, but Congress approved additional funding this week. The legislation awaits the president's signature.
Representatives from Maine's Small Business Development Center, Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), and SCORE Maine on Thursday offered information and responded to questions about applying for unemployment and federal programs offering financial assistance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"To apply for this, you will do it directly at the SBA website, as soon as the program has been refunded," Susan Desgrossiliers of the SBDC said. "I would recommend that you pay attention and as soon as you see it [has been refunded], you read it or it's announced that the program has been refunded, that you go directly to the SBA website and click on the application and get your application in."
Cynthia Murphy of CEI said unemployment benefits have been expanded to more workers, with more money available and for a longer period.
Benefits for sole proprietors, freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors will be available, but is not yet, she said.
"There is $300 million -- a little bit more than $300 million -- that has been set aside for the seafood industry," Martens said of federal aid. "And while that is a nice gesture, and it was a very important thing to have that in the bill, in the CARES act, that $300 million is being spread around the entire nation for the seafood industry from top to bottom, from those working out on the water, to those processing, to those selling. That money's not going to go very far."
He again urged fishermen to apply on Friday in order to not miss out on the funding.
"Those two funds are going to go insanely quick," he said. We're talking potentially 24 hours and that money will be spent down."
"This is going to be a long, long slog through the impacts of this," Martens continued."It's not going to be over just in this summer."
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