Assistance totaling more than $5.2 million distributed to eligible fishing stakeholders for COVID relief

[photo courtesy Jennette's Pier]

More than $5.2 million in financial assistance is on its way to those eligible in fishing industries who sustained income losses because of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries issued funds last week to 197 commercial fishermen and marine aquaculture operations, for-hire fishing operations, and seafood dealers and processors, deemed eligible for assistance from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act Fisheries Relief Program, the division said Friday.

The state was allocated about $5.4 million in May 2020 from the federal CARES Act for financial relief through direct payments to fishery-related stakeholder groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal law required applicants document total loss of revenue greater than 35% as compared to the average total revenue from the same period of the previous five years to be eligible for relief.

Additionally, applicants were required to affirm that this assistance in combination with any other CARES Act assistance received would not result in overcompensation for their financial losses in 2020.

The division developed a spending plan with public input for the program approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries in September 2020. Applications were accepted from Oct. 27-Nov. 30, 2020.

No relief funds could be distributed until all applications and appeals were finalized because the funds are allocated based on the percentage of eligible claimed fishing loss revenue in relation to all eligible stakeholders who qualify in the stakeholder category.

The proportions allocated for each eligible stakeholder category differ from those initially approved in the spending plan. After reviewing and approving eligible applications, the greatest amount that could be awarded to eligible applicants under the for-hire operations category was $434,243.

This amount compensated for 100% of approved losses in the for-hire operations category and left $827,074 unexpended. The Division of Marine Fisheries requested and received permission to amend the spending plan to move the $827,074 from the For-Hire Operations stakeholder category to the Seafood Dealers and Processors category, which raised the compensation in the category from 17% of approved losses to 40% of approved losses.

The allocation proportion did not change in the Commercial Fisherman and Marine Aquaculture Operations category. Stakeholders in that category were compensated for 79% of approved losses.

More assistance to the fishing industry will be available. NOAA Fisheries has announced that North Carolina’s share of the national $225 million in fisheries assistance in the Consolidated Appropriations Act will be about $4.6 million.

However, the amount available to the state was revised to around $4.5 million because of NOAA and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission administration fees. An additional amount, still to be determined, will go toward Division of Marine Fisheries administrative costs.

The Division of Marine Fisheries will announce a public comment period for a draft spending plan, and then an application period for this funding. Applicants for this funding must meet the same eligibility criteria as the CARES Act fisheries assistance funding.

For questions about this assistance, email covid19relief@ncdenr.gov.

The following payments were made:

Stakeholder Category

Number of
Applications

Number
Approved

Assistance Awarded

Percent of  Total Award

Commercial Fishermen and Marine Aquaculture Operations

217

137

$3,374,022

64.2%

Seafood Dealers and Processors

35

26

$1,447,221

27.5%

For-Hire Fishing Operations

39

34

$434,243

8.3%

Total

291

197

$5,255,486

100%

An additional $161,287 went toward Division of Marine Fisheries administrative costs.