MOREHEAD CITY — Commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and others who make their living on the water may get federal aid sometime this spring to help make up coronavirus-related loses.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Deputy Director Dee Lupton informed the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Feb. 25 during the commission’s online Webinar meeting that division staff is processing Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act financial aid applications from commercial and for-hire fishermen, seafood dealers and processors.
The application period for the $5.4 million in federal aid for North Carolina watermen closed Nov. 30, and according to an email Feb. 23 to the News-Times from DMF Communications Director Patricia Smith, the division received 290 applications, of which 216 were from commercial fishermen and aquaculture operations, 35 were from seafood dealers and processors and 39 were from for-hire operations.
“As of this past Monday (Feb. 22), we’ve reviewed all of them,” Ms. Lupton said at the Feb. 25 commission meeting. “One hundred and ninety-eight have been approved. We’re in the process of notifying those determined not-eligible, they will have an appeal opportunity.”
Ms. Smith said told the News-Times of the remaining applications, 90 didn’t receive approval and two were tabled. Once all the documentation has been reviewed, CARES Act fund distribution will begin. Ms. Lupton said the division hopes to begin that process this spring.
Additionally, more financial assistance may be coming from the federal government. Ms. Lupton said Congress passed a second CARES Act in December, allocating an additional $300 million nationwide for federal fisheries relief.
“Right now it’s mainly for direct assistance,” she said. “NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries has advised us we have to treat these two as separate pots of money.”
Ms. Smith said in her Tuesday the division expects North Carolina’s share of the $300 million will be similar to the first round of CARES Act relief.
Seafood industry participants were already waiting on federal funds even prior to the pandemic. Ms. Lupton said NOAA had granted Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to declare North Carolina a fisheries disaster after the effects of Hurricane Florence in 2018, resulting in $7.7 million in relief funds for the state seafood industry. She said as of Feb. 25, they’re still waiting on approval of a spending plan for these funds, however.
Ms. Smith said Tuesday that fishermen compensated from the $11.6 million in state-appropriated hurricane disaster assistance in 2019 won’t be eligible for the federal hurricane assistance.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.