DEEP and DOAG Seek Feedback on Draft Spend Plan for CARES Act Assistance to Fisheries Participants
Public comment on Disbursement Plan for $1.8M in Relief Funds Accepted Until July 19, 2020
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DOAG) are currently soliciting public feedback until July 19, 2020, on a draft spending plan that details proposed disbursement guidelines for $1.8 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for marine fishery participants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has caused substantial negative impacts to the U.S. marine fishing industry by shutting down seafood markets and creating hazardous conditions for operation of fishing vessels. In Connecticut, many commercial fishing vessels have remained tied to the dock throughout the pandemic, and those boats that have fished have received low prices for their catch. Connecticut for-hire recreational fishing vessels, or “charter boats”, have been limited in the number of passengers they can carry due to social distancing requirements, and have seen reduced demand for for-hire fishing trips. Seafood dealers, commercial shellfishers, and marine aquaculture operators have seen domestic demand for seafood plummet as a result of widespread restaurant closures.
The CARES Act will hopefully provide much-needed relief to those in the industry. Signed into law in March, the CARES ACT authorized the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to provide $300 million of economic assistance to marine fishery participants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Connecticut learned that its allocation of CARES Act Assistance to Fishery Participants (CAAFP) aid to states, Tribes, and territories was $1,835,424, disbursement of which is contingent upon approval of a “spend plan” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
DEEP’s Fisheries Division, in cooperation with DOAG’s Bureau of Aquaculture, which regulates the Connecticut aquaculture industry, has drafted a spend plan that details the proposed manner in which CT CAAFP aid funds will be disbursed to qualified applicants. To qualify for CT CAAFP aid, applicants must be Connecticut residents, must participate in the commercial fishing, for-hire fishing, seafood dealing, or aquaculture sectors, and must have suffered at least a 35% loss in revenue in 2020 as compared to the prior 5-year average (2015-19).
“While the amount of fiscal assistance provided to the Connecticut fishing industry by the CARES Act won’t completely address the substantial impacts on this historic Connecticut industry, we are hopeful that this aid will help fishery participants and their families make it through this difficult time,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said.
“The spend plan drafted by DEEP and DOAG is intended to equitably distribute aid amongst a broad range of fishery sector participants, in a transparent manner that accounts for the relative need and level of fishing activity of program applicants,” said Justin Davis, Assistant Director of the DEEP Fisheries Division.
“Connecticut’s shellfish operations have withstood the test of time and weather, and will withstand the COVID pandemic too,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “This funding will help them maintain a level of operation as the markets come back. People can directly support these operations as well by buying locally grown and harvested oysters and clams along the Long Island coastline. Visit CTGrown.gov to find one to visit this weekend.”
DEEP and DOAG are currently soliciting public feedback on the draft spend plan until July 19, 2020. To submit comments on the draft spend plan, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to DEEP Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 719, Old Lyme CT 06371. Information and a link to the draft spend plan can be found on the DEEP website at https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Fishing/Commercial/CT-CARES-Act-Assistance-to-Fisheries-Participants.
Following the public feedback period, DEEP and DOAG will consider public input received and may choose to modify the spend plan. The spend plan will ultimately be submitted to NOAA for review; upon NOAA approval, DEEP and DOAG will make CAAFP aid applications available to sector participants. It is not possible for DEEP or DOAG to predetermine individual CAAFP disbursements, as individual disbursements will be dependent upon the number of applicants within each sector and their attributes (e.g. annual income derived from fishing, number of vessels owned).