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CARES Act funds in store for fishing industry

Staff Writer
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

We won’t see it tomorrow, but desperately needed funds for a hard-hit fishing industry are on the way.

Congress has allocated $300 million in relief funds for losses suffered by various fishery-related businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes as part of the $1.8 trillion CARES Act, which focuses on supporting businesses and individuals who have had financial losses during these difficult times.

To allocate the Sec. 12005 funds, NOAA Fisheries used readily available multi-year averages to estimate the total average annual revenues from commercial fishing operations, aquaculture firms, the seafood supply chain (processors, dealers, wholesalers and distributors) and charter fishing businesses from each coastal state, Tribe, and territory.

Florida’s share worked out to be $22.4 million for eligible applicants, which includes licensed commercial fishers, seafood wholesale dealers, charter fishing businesses, and aquaculture use certificate holders that are live-rock or bivalve producers.

Applicants must be able to document at least a 35 percent loss of revenue between January and May 2020 as compared to the average of the previous five years during the same period.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received public input during July and will be submitting Florida’s plan for approval to NOAA in early August. After NOAA approval, the FWC will be administering the application and approval process, while the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will be sending checks directly to successful applicants. This supportive funding will be in the form of a grant and will not require repayment.

To see the FWC’s draft spending plan that will be going to NOAA, follow this web address myfwc.com/media/24141/caresactproposal.pdf

If you would like more information about the CARES Act and the FWC’s role in this effort, please visit their website at myfwc.com/conservation/special-initiatives/caresact/

If you think you might be eligible for these funds, don’t wait for the 30-day application period to open, planned for Oct. 2020, before doing your research on this relief funding. Go now to the FWC spending plan so you can begin preparing the documentation that will be required. With the impacts sustained from Hurricane Michael and now the virus, it is hard to imagine an industry sector in our Panhandle region that is more in need of help.

Erik Lovestrand, the UF/IFAS regional Sea Grant agent in Wakulla, Franklin and Gulf counties, can be reached at elovestrand@ufl.edu