The south coast fisheries brought in $ 2.9 million in federal funds for the industry last year, about 10 percent of the total received for Massachusetts.
This money went to 126 commercial fishermen, charter boat owners, aquaculturists and seafood processors.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act 2020, more commonly known as the CARES Act, has authorized more than $ 2 trillion in aid to individuals, businesses, hospitals, loan programs and to other recipients to help mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Paycheck Protection Program loans, known as PPP loans, were also part of this package, which injected $ 1.3 billion into the economy of the South Shore, with forgivable loans to 10,974 businesses.
In May 2020, the US Department of Commerce announced an allocation of $ 300 million for fishing aid. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Massachusetts received the third highest amount of funding with around $ 28 million. Alaska and Washington received the more than $ 50 million each and Maine finished fifth with about $ 20.3 million.
On the South Shore, Duxbury businesses received the most aid, $ 710,486 for 27 businesses, followed by Plymouth with $ 595,809 for 36 businesses; Scituate with $ 525,360 for 19 companies; and Marshfield with $ 232,929 for 13 companies.
The State Marine Fisheries Division has been tasked with developing the emergency spending plan, which NOAA Fisheries approved at the end of July 2020. The amount to be disbursed has fallen to approximately $ 27.8 million after deducting personnel and material costs for submitting applications.
State officials and experts divided the aid money into four categories: about 50%, or $ 13.8 million, for seafood processing or wholesalers; about 43 percent, or $ 11.8 million, for commercial fishing enterprises; 4.2 percent, or $ 1.1 million, for aquaculture; and about 2.1 percent, or $ 584,000, for charter fishing companies.
Most of the money distributed to the South Shore was split between commercial fishermen, $ 1.3 million, and seafood processors, $ 1.1 million. The aquaculture haul was $ 295,322.
All trade relief payments were mailed by November 10, 2020, and all seafood processors and wholesalers’ relief payments were mailed by October 2, 2020. According to the state, Massachusetts was the first state to distribute the money and made all payments by November.
Only businesses that suffered a 35% loss of revenue due to COVID-19 were eligible for CARES funds. The state has also developed sector-specific criteria for the amount of aid, such as the size of the fleet and the number of employees.
The money brought much-needed relief to an industry that saw its landing revenues drop to 49 percent, according to a recent report from NOAA Fisheries.
The report found that 78 percent of fishermen surveyed in the Northeast stopped their fishing trips for a period between March and July 2020.
Some CARES beneficiaries have also received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to data published by the Small Business Administration.
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Not everyone who applied received any money. There were 1,270 applications in Massachusetts, of which 955 were approved. On the South Shore, 160 companies applied but only 126 were approved.
Plymouth received the most rejections, 10, followed by Duxbury with seven and Marshfield with five.
Scott Soares, consultant coordinator for the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association, said that while the money Massachusetts received was nowhere near enough to combat the economic impacts of COVID-19, they were certainly a “big help” .
Soares, who also served on the Marine Fisheries Division’s advisory committee to develop the spending plan, said producers at the time envisioned a revenue loss of up to 80%.
Today they are seeing a decline of around 70% on average, but that is slowly starting to improve, he said. He expects it will take up to a year or more to return to 2019 levels.
The state’s aquaculture sector has received further assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy and Cape Cod organizations through oyster buying programs, which have all helped move certain products.
“Many thanks to our legislative leaders who think about the fishing industry,” Soares said.
At the end of December, Congress adopted a second COVID-19 economic relief bill, this time to the tune of 900 billion dollars. Of that amount, Congress has allocated a second installment of $ 300 million for fisheries disaster assistance.
The state’s marine fisheries division last month said in a statement that the money will be distributed to states in early 2021, when the agency’s task forces will meet again to help distribute the next round of funding.
NOAA Fisheries could not provide more details on when the money would be released to the states.
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