Maine’s seafood industry could get a $20 million boost by the end of October through funds made available under the federal CARES Act.
Individual fishing license holders and shellfish growers who qualify will get the same lump-sum payment, no matter how large or small the operation.
Commissioner of Marine Resources Patrick Keliher said that after some frustrating delays, state and federal officials are nearing final agreement on exactly how to allocate the funds. And he said that despite rumors circulating on social media that the funds are being diverted, the money will indeed go straight to individual seafood businesses in Maine.
“That is all ridiculous. The money will be distributed,” he said. “Industry will be hearing from us. The industry likes to complain about bureaucracy all the time; well here I am complaining about the bureaucracy of the federal government allowing us to get this money out as quickly as we can.”
The funds will go to seafood-sector businesses that lost at least 35 percent of their revenues compared with the same period in previous years due to the closure of restaurants, casinos and cruise ships that were the backbone of lobster and other seafood sales.
A document DMR produced for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that commercial fishing license holders, boat-for-hire operations and aquaculture farms that qualify could get more than $2,100 each, while seafood dealers and processors are projected to receive a little over $6,000 each.
“The need is likely there for even more relief in the long run,” Keliher said. “But we need to get this out on the ground and then figure out what the picture is like as we approach the end of the year and then see if we need to go back to Congress and ask for more.”
He emphasized that the exact value of the lump-sum benefit will depend on exactly how many businesses qualify for the funds, with each one getting an equal share of the total. DMR will use its own landings data to calculate and certify qualification for sectors that provide that information.
Others such as dealers, from whom the state does not collect such data, will need to self-certify under threat of penalty for false filings. Keliher noted that will include an assertion that the benefit would not make a business “more than whole” when added to payments from augmented unemployment assistance and other pandemic relief programs.
Keliher said once the feds approve the plan, the department will notify license-holders and other potential beneficiaries of their options.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.