COVID-19 FISHERMEN RESOURCES
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Small Business Relief Information
ALASKA AND WASHINGTON CARES ACT FEDERAL FISHERIES DISASTER RELIEF APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS
Congress authorized a $300 million federal fisheries disaster relief package through the 2020 CARES Act. Eligible fisheries participants include commercial and charter fishing sectors, aquaculture businesses, tribes and processing/seafood sectors. Washington and Alaska each received $50 million and authorized direct payments to eligible fisheries participants. The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) will review applications and distribute funds.
Applications are now available for Washington’s and Alaska’s fisheries disaster relief allocations. Washington residents who fish in Alaska must apply for relief under the Washington spend plan. The 45-day application period for Washington residents will end on March 25, 2021. Applications for funds distributed from Alaska’s allocation will be available on the PSMFC website on March 1, 2021. A 54-day application period will end April 23, 2021. Alaska expects that the PSFMC will disburse funds in June 2021 after an application review period.
Alaska’s spend plan excludes Alaska fishermen who are residents of a coastal fishing state that received CARES Act federal fisheries disaster relief. Residents of Idaho, Arizona or Michigan who otherwise meet eligibility requirements for the commercial fishing sector may apply for a share of Alaska’s allocation. Residents of Washington, Oregon or Massachusetts must apply in their home state.
In general, eligible commercial fishermen in Washington and Alaska must hold qualifying state or federal fishing, or vessel license permits, be active operators and have experienced a greater than 35% loss in gross fishery revenue during a specified period of time in 2020 as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 relative to average gross fishing revenue the past five years (2015-2019). Each state’s spend plan provides different ways for applicants who did not fish all five years to calculate losses. ALFA’s website provides additional information regarding other criteria, applicable time periods, document and record retention requirements.
Payment amounts for the Alaska allocation are unknown until all applications are received and the total number of shares counted. Each sector will have its allocation divided by the total number of shares which will then become the base share value. For Alaska’s $17.3 commercial harvester allocation, there will be one share per eligible permit or license. There are 10,520 Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) permits, 732 CFEC vessel permits and 5,301 federal permits. If all 16,552 permits and vessel licenses were eligible, the base share would be $1,043. For example, an applicant who owned a vessel, a salmon permit and halibut IFQ would receive $3,129. There are 5,790 potentially eligible charter sector shares, with a base value of $2,301 per share and 1,150 potentially eligible processor shares with a base value of $13,729. ADF&G divided processors into seven revenue tiers, with lower earners ($30,000 - $75,000) receiving one share and the largest processors (>$50 million) receiving 7 shares.
Washington’s approved spend plan also authorizes direct payments to fishery participants. There is one pool for the $38.5 million allocated to non-tribal commercial fishing, shellfish aquaculture, seafood processing and charter industry participants. Washington anticipates claims from fishery and seafood related businesses that range from small sole proprietorships to large corporations. Because of this variability, direct payment amounts are uncertain. Washington expects claimed losses to exceed funds and provides mechanisms that proportionally reduce payments to ensure distribution across the range of eligible applicants. In the event of a surplus, a second application period will open.
Washington’s plan sets a qualifying period for losses between January 1 and July 31, 2020, whether for the full seven months or any partial consecutive period of four weeks or more. Applicants must self-certify a 35 percent gross revenue loss caused by as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 for their fishery business in 2020 compared to average revenue for the same time frame from 2015-2019. The spend plan provides several options for fishermen without the full five-year fishing history to calculate their revenue losses. Washington residents who commercial fish in Alaska are eligible to apply under some circumstances if they have a qualifying state of Alaska fishing permit, vessel license or federal permit such as IFQ for halibut, sablefish or crab.
The PSMFC recommends that all applicants review state spend plans before filling out the application. A significant number of Alaska commercial fishing vessels will fall under the seafood processor category under Alaska’s spend plan. The seafood processing sector includes numerous commercial fishing vessels with processing permits that freeze fish at sea, participate in dive fisheries or direct market their catch or in some cases tender vessels. Fishermen who fall in one of these categories in particular should review Alaska’s spend plan carefully because there are distinct eligibility and residency criteria for this sector.
There are links to many of the materials on ALFA’s COVID-19 page and the PSMFC’s website, which includes links to approved spend plans, active applications and agency contact information is available here: https://www.psmfc.org/cares-act-the-coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act
ALFA is providing overviews of relief programs as general information for commercial fishermen. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these programs to contact their banker, attorney, accountant or the PSMFC for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
WASHINGTON STATE CARES ACT FISHERIES DISASTER RELIEF APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS WITH ELIGIBILITY FOR ALASKA PERMIT HOLDERS
NOAA Fisheries recently approved Washington State’s CARES Act fisheries disaster relief spend plan, beginning a 45-day application period. Applications will need to be uploaded to the PSMFC’s website by 5:00 p.m. PST on March 25, 2021 or postmarked on March 25, 2021. The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) will review applications and distribute funds to qualifying applicants and anticipates making payments in May 2021. Many commercial fishermen who are Washington state residents and commercial fish in Alaska will be eligible. Alaska’s spend plan, which also provides eligibility to Washington state residents in some circumstances, is still under review by NOAA Fisheries.
Washington’s spend plan authorizes direct payments to fishery participants. There is one pool for the $38.5 million allocated to non-tribal commercial fishing, shellfish aquaculture, seafood processing and charter industry participants. The state anticipates a variety of claims from fishery and seafood related businesses that range from small sole proprietorships to large corporations. Because of this variability, direct payment amounts are uncertain and will depend on the total number of claims. Washington expects claimed losses to exceed funds and its spend plan provides several scaling measures that proportionally reduce payments to ensure distribution across the range of eligible applicants. In the unlikely event of a surplus, a second application period will open.
The spend plan sets a qualifying period for losses incurred as a direct or indirect result of COVID between January 1 and July 31, 2020, whether for the full seven months or any partial consecutive period of four weeks or more. Applicants must self-certify a 35 percent gross revenue loss for their fishery business in 2020 compared to average revenue for the same time frame from 2015-2019. The spend plan provides several options for fishermen without the full five-year fishing history to calculate their revenue losses. Applicants will need to compile and retain the documentation needed to report the claimed revenue loss but will not have to submit those records to the PSMFC.
Washington state residents who commercial fish in Alaska are eligible to apply if they have an Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission vessel license or permit or IFQ permit for crab, halibut or sablefish, and their Washington residence is the listed address. Fishermen who have received other forms of CARES Act assistance are eligible to apply but must certify that the sum of aid received and traditional revenue will not exceed their average annual revenue earned over the past five years.
The PSMFC recommends that all applicants review the spend plan before filling out the application. Commercial fishermen can direct residency and other questions direct to the PSMFC by email at WACares@psmfc.org or by phone at 1-866-990-2738. The PSMFC’s spend plan website is available here:
Washington spend plan and application are available at the following links:
ALFA is providing overviews of these programs as general information for commercial fishermen. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these programs to contact the PSMFC, their attorney or accountant for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
COVID-19 ECONOMIC RELIEF UPDATE: FIRST TIME AND SECOND DRAW PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM LOANS AVAILABLE SOON
On December 27, 2020, Congress enacted the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (Economic Aid Act). The Economic Aid Act reauthorizes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and appropriated over $284 billion in funds for the PPP. Funds will be available for first time borrowers and for second draw PPP loans for some borrowers with existing PPP loans. The loan application period will expire March 31, 2021 or earlier if funding runs out. There are some changes to the PPP loans, including more flexibility for expense categories, more flexibility for seasonal businesses, and simplified loan forgiveness provisions.
Commercial fishermen in need of economic relief may contact local lenders to determine eligibility and apply for a first time or second draw PPP loan. First-draw PPP loans are available to borrowers that were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020, and include businesses with 500 or fewer employees, sole-proprietors, independent contractors and eligible self-employed individuals.
Second draw loans are for smaller and harder hit businesses, including sole-proprietors and contractors. Eligibility criteria for the second draw loans include: (1) applicants have less than 300 employees; (2) applicants must have spent or will spend the full amount of their first PPP loans on eligible expenses and (3) applicants must demonstrate a 25% reduction in gross receipts in any quarter of 2020 relative to the same 2019 quarter, or potentially for the full year. Applicants seeking to borrow less than $150,000 can self-certify the 25% revenue loss threshold.
First-time and second draw PPP loans will be eligible for loan forgiveness – potentially the entire amount - when borrowers use funds mostly for paying workers. For a self-employed commercial fishing vessel owner or crew member, this includes paying yourself. Sixty percent of the loan forgiveness amount must be payroll expenses and the remaining forty percent can cover operating expenses such as utility payments, moorage and mortgage interest. The Economic Aid Act expands expense categories available for forgiveness to include accounting and software expenses, cost of supplies, and worker protection safety gear to meet COVID-19 mandates. These expense categories may be applied to existing loans except for those already forgiven. Borrowers wishing to modify existing loans should contact their lenders for details.
The Economic Aid Act also created a simplified loan forgiveness application process for loans under $150,000. Borrowers will be able to provide lenders with a one-page certification describing the number of employees retained because of the loan, estimated portion of the loan spent on payroll costs, and total loan amount.
Lenders will calculate loan amounts based on the borrower’s payroll. For most borrowers, the maximum loan amount will be 2.5 times their monthly payroll. A business with an annual payroll of $120,000 would be able to borrow $25,000 under this program ($120,000/12=$10,000; $10,000 x 2.5=$25,000). For a commercial vessel owner, the calculation depends on income reported on your Form 1040, in most cases, line 31 on Schedule C. For example, as explained above, a vessel owner with $120,000 in taxable income would be eligible to borrow $25,000. There are opportunities to apply for loans based on peak season income; fishermen interested in this option should consult their lender for details.
Commercial fishermen interested in these loans will need the following documentation and in some cases additional documents requested by your lender: (1) Form 1099s; (2) Your most recent Form 1040, including Schedule C and (3) in some cases, if you are seeking to use funds for business mortgage interest, loan documents will be useful.
Local lenders are currently preparing to accept applications for first-time and second draw borrowers but are waiting for final authorization from the Small Business Administration. There may be new updates on their websites by or shortly after Thursday, January 14, 2021. Lenders in southeast Alaska include First National Bank of Alaska (First National Bank Alaska :: Loan Relief Programs (fnbalaska.com)), northrim bank (COVID-19 Loan Relief & Aid Programs (northrim.com)) and First Bank (PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM First Bank | Ketchikan - Juneau - Sitka - Petersburg - Wrangell - Craig | Alaska - AK (firstbankak.com)
The Small Business Administration’s website for the Paycheck Protection Program and other COVID-19 relief programs is available at: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
ALFA is providing overviews of these loan programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these loan programs to contact their banker, attorney, or accountant for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
ADF&G RELEASES FINAL DRAFT SPEND PLAN FOR APPROVAL BY NOAA WITH REVISED ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR HARVESTERS AND PROCESSORS - Updated December 30, 2020
On December 7, 2020, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) released its Final Draft Spend Plan” which will distribute over $49 million in CARES Act fisheries disaster relief funds to eligible participants from the commercial fishing, seafood processing, charter fishing, aquaculture and subsistence sectors. After NOAA approves the spend plan, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission will work on distributing applications and information to fishery participants and establish deadlines. ADF&G made some revisions to eligibility criteria in its final draft which include a shorter time frame for calculating revenue declines and increased program accessibility to Alaska fishermen who reside in other states.
Eligible commercial fishermen must have one of the following permits or licenses: (1) a 2020 Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) commercial vessel license; (2) a 2020 CFEC Commercial fishing permit; (3) a 2020 NOAA Fisheries License Limitation Permit; (4) a 2020 NOAA fisheries IFQ permit and/or (5) NOAA fisheries crab rationalization IFQ permit. Eligible applicants will receive 1 share per permit. Payment amounts are unknown until all applications are received and the total number of shares counted to determine the value of a single share.
Eligible applicants must have fished in 2018 and 2019 and must certify that they have experienced a greater than 35% loss in gross fishery revenue from March 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020 as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 relative to average gross fishing revenue the past five years (2015-2019) for the same time period. Those applicants who did not fish all five years can use average gross revenue for their years in operation. There is one exception to the March 1 – November 30, 2020 time frame requirement which applies to commercial dive fisheries. Commercial dive fishery applicants can calculate the 35% revenue loss during the time period from January 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020.
One of the changes to eligibility requirements is that the nonresident commercial fishermen who meet eligibility criteria established for commercial harvesters may apply for disaster relief in Alaska so long as they do not apply for assistance in another state or territory. The residency requirements are vessel-based for the at-sea processing sector - at-sea processors must have an Alaska home port as the address listed on their Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission commercial vessel license. At-sea processing vessels that are homeported in any other state must apply where the vessel is homeported.
Many commercial fishermen, including freezer vessels, many dive operations, direct marketers and some tender vessels will apply for relief funds allocated to the processing sector. Seafood processors must hold a 2020 processing permit issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Eligible applicants in the processing sector must also have a minimum average annual wholesale value revenue or direct sale revenue of $30,000 from 2015-2019 during the March 1 through November 30 time frame. Vessels that would otherwise fit into the processor category but do not meet the $30,000 annual revenue requirement must apply in the harvesting sector. Processors must also be able to document a greater than 35 percent loss in processing revenue from March 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020 when compared to the previous 5 year period or for years in operation.
Self-certification will be sufficient to verify the losses, but applicants must attest that they have and will retain records documenting the losses. Applicants can exclude most pandemic-related aid such as grants or unemployment assistance received in 2020 when calculating the 35 percent revenue loss. However, they must also self-certify that revenue from fishery participation and most other pandemic-related aid will not exceed average revenue from fishery participation for the same time period 2015-2019.
The final draft plan, including details about how to factor in pandemic-related aid and estimated share values, is available at: Ongoing Issues - Hot Topics and Issues, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
*ALFA is providing overviews of these pandemic-related aid programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these programs to contact their banker, attorney, or accountant for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
ADF&G RELEASES SECOND DISASTER RELIEF DRAFT SPEND PLAN WITH CHANGES TO ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA AND PAYMENT TIERS- Updated November 12, 2020
On November 9, 2020, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) released its second “Section 12005 CARES Act Relief for Fisheries Participants Second Draft Spend Plan” which will distribute $49 million in fisheries disaster relief funds to eligible participants from the commercial fishing, seafood processing, charter fishing, aquaculture and subsistence sectors. ADF&G’s second draft spend plan allocates over a quarter of the funds – 27 percent - to the charter sector. Commercial fishing vessel owners who are not processors will receive 35 percent of the allocation. Seafood processors, including numerous commercial fishing vessels that freeze, participate in dive fisheries or direct market their catch, will receive 32 percent of the disaster relief funds.
The second draft spend plan makes some changes to the October draft spend plan which include an extended time period for calculating revenue declines, eligibility for a small number of commercial fishermen who reside in states outside of Alaska, and changes to the tiered payment system. Eligible commercial fishermen must have one of the following permits or licenses: (1) a 2020 CFEC commercial vessel license; (2) a 2020 CFEC Commercial fishing permit; (3) a 2020 NOAA Fisheries License Limitation Permit; (4) a 2020 NOAA fisheries IFQ permit and/or (5) NOAA fisheries crab rationalization IFQ permit. Eligible applicants will receive 1 share per permit. Payment amounts are unknown until all applications are received and the total number of shares counted to determine the value of a single share.
Eligible applicants must have fished in 2018 and 2019 and must certify that they have experience a greater than 35% loss in fishery revenue from January 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020 as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 relative to average gross fishing revenue the past five years for same time period. Those applicants who did not fish all five years can use average gross revenue for their years in operation.
Applicants must also certify that if they received other pandemic related aid, including unemployment, grants, or loans that won’t be repaid, the sum of fishery revenue + pandemic aid (not including loans to be repaid) must not exceed average annual revenue from 2015 to 2019. Self-certification will be sufficient to verify the losses, but applicants must attest that they have and will retain records documenting the losses.
One of the changes to eligibility requirements is that commercial fishermen who are residents of other states may apply, but only if they have a business license issued by Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. It is unclear if this change will help non-resident commercial fishermen. In June, the state of Alaska excluded most commercial fishermen from the Alaska Cares Act grant program by requiring a state business license. Alaska exempts most commercial fisheries businesses from the state business license requirement. As a result, most commercial fishermen were not eligible for the AK CARES grants until the state expanded program eligibility in August.
Many commercial fishermen, including freezer vessels, many dive operations, direct marketers and some tender vessels will apply for relief funds allocated to the processing sector. Processors must hold a 2020 processing permit issued by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and processing vessels must be homeported in AK. Eligible processors must have a minimum average annual wholesale value revenue of $30,000 from 2015-2019. The spend plan establishes seven tiers based on average wholesale revenues to determine payment amounts.
For example, processors with revenues between $30,000 and $75,000 receive one share, and processors with revenues between $75,000 and $500,000 receive 2 shares. At the top end of the scale, processors with larger revenues of between $20 million and $50 million would receive 6 shares, and processors with revenues above $50 million would receive 7 shares.
The second draft plan is available at: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/hottopics/pdfs/cares_act_spendingplan_110920.pdf
ADF&G is allowing a public comment period through 5:00 p.m. November 15, 2020. Fishermen can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADF&G CARES ACT FISHER DISASTER RELIEF DRAFT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR FISHERMEN AND PROCESSORS- Updated October 8, 2020
On October 5, 2020, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) released its “Section 12005 CARES Act Relief for Fisheries Participants Draft Spend Plan” which will distribute $50 million in fisheries disaster relief funds to eligible participants from the commercial fishing, seafood processing, charter fishing, aquaculture and subsistence sectors.
Fishermen eligible for relief must be Alaska residents at least 18 years old who participate in marine fisheries off Alaska and hold a 2020 Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) vessel license and/or a 2020 CFEC fishing permit. Applicants also must have operated in 2018 and 2019. Qualifying applicants must have incurred and be able to document a 35 percent gross revenue loss from March 1, 2020 – November 1 2020 as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 relative to average gross revenue last five years (2015-2019). Those applicants who did not fish all five years can use an annual gross revenue for years available. Also, applicants who received other CARES Act relief must certify that the sum of the aid plus their 2020 regular fishing revenue will not exceed their average revenue from 2015-2019.
ADF&G will calculate payment amounts once the agency receives all applications. Eligible applicants will receive one share per permit and one per vessel.
Eligible processors must have an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) 2020 seafood processing permit, have operated in 2018 and 2019, and have a minimum average wholesale revenue of $30,000 from 2015-2019. At-sea seafood processors must be home-ported in Alaska and those that meet the $30,000 minimum average wholesale revenue will apply in seafood processing rather than harvesting sector. Other eligibility requirements for processors are similar to those for commercial fishing business owners - applicants must be able to calculate annual wholesale revenue for 2015-2019 and document a greater than 35 percent wholesale revenue loss compared to the time period from March 1, 2020 through November 1, 2020. Those applicants who have operated for less than 5 years can use the years in operation to document the revenue loss. ADF&G’s spend plan proposes to create seven payment tiers based on wholesale revenues.
After NMFS approves ADF&G’s spend plan, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) will review applications and distribute the relief funds. ADF&Gs press release and information for submitting comments is available here:
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ANNOUNCES SEAFOOD TRADE RELIEF PROGRAM Updated September 14, 2020
On September 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the creation of the Seafood Trade Relief Program, which will release roughly $530 million in funds for fishermen impacted by tariffs on specific seafood products. The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency will administer the program, which is funded by the Commodity Credit Corporation. According to the agency:
“The intent of [the Seafood Trade Relief Program] is to provide financial assistance to commercial fishermen for expanding or aiding in the expansion of domestic markets for U.S. commercially caught and sold seafood, because seafood commodities have been impacted by trade actions of foreign government, resulting in the loss of exports.”
The program will provide payments on a per pound harvested basis for sixteen commercially harvested marine fish species. Qualifying species had an estimated trade damage in excess of $5 million and include fish caught by Alaska and West Coast small boat hook-and-line and fixed gear fishermen such as tuna, salmon, sablefish, geoducks, Dungeness, king and tanner crabs. To be eligible, commercial fishermen must still be an active U.S. commercial fisherman in 2020 and have harvested specific seafood species in 2019 with a valid federal or state fishing permit or license.
Fishermen can apply for the payments beginning September 14, 2020 through December 14, 2020. To apply, commercial fishermen must complete a “2020 Seafood Trade Relief Program Application” and submit the application to their local Farm Service Agency office. Applicants will have to certify the amount of commercial landings in pounds for the 2019 season. The payment amount per fishermen depends on the amount of pounds harvested. Payment rates reflect the estimated severity of the impact of trade disruption to U.S. seafood caught and sold commercially. The Department of Agriculture calculated the per pound payment amounts as shown in the table below:
For example, if a fisherman caught 100,000 pounds of salmon, the Farm Service agency would calculate the payment as 100,000 x $.16. In some cases the Farm Service Agency may require fishermen to submit additional documentation for eligibility, including commercial fishing permits, documentation of landings and other forms. There is a $250,000 cap on payments. Fishermen with an average adjusted gross income of $900,000 or more may or may not be eligible and should contact a Farm Service Agency representative for criteria and other information applicable to this income threshold.
The Department of Agriculture used a trade damage model that simulated reductions in U.S. exports caused by the increased tariffs. The trade damage model estimated roughly $530 million in trade damages to U.S. commercial fishermen.
The online application and other information about the Seafood Trade Relief Program is available at:
Instructions are available here:
The Alaska Service Center is in Palmer, and its website, including contact information for staff administering the STRP is here:
Fishermen in other states can find their local Farm Agency Service Center through the following link:
There is a Call Center available for fishermen who may need individual support with the application process: (877) 508-8364.
ALASKA CARES ACT ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA EXPANDED BEGINNING MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2020 Updated August 31, 2020
On August 27, 2020, the State of Alaska issued expanded eligibility criteria for the distribution of small business relief grants through the AK CARES Funding Program (“AK CARES”). Effective Monday, August 31, 2020, the application process will be open to businesses that received any amount of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds. Previously, small businesses that had received more than $5,000.00 in other CARES Act federal assistance such as U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans or Economic Injury Disaster loans were ineligible. The state also expanded the program to include businesses that are secondary sources of income so these grants may also be available to part-time commercial fishermen. Roughly $240 million remains available for small business relief.
Commercial fishermen with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees who engage primarily in Alaska fisheries and who held and fished a Limited Entry permit in 2019 and 2020 and participated in a fishery that produced income in 2019 are eligible to apply for the grants. DCCED has also carved out three exceptions for fishermen who did not fish a state permit in 2019: (1) a permit holder who purchased a permit for the first time in 2020 is eligible they actively participated in an Alaska fishery in 2019 as a crew member; (2) a permit card holder who did an emergency transfer of the permit in 2019 and is actively fishing in 2020 is eligible and (3) temporary permit holders who held Limited Entry permits by emergency transfer are eligible.
Grants will range between a minimum amount of $5,000 and a maximum amount of $100,000. Applicants can calculate grant amounts based on eligible expenses incurred from March 11, 2020 to the application date and some applicants may be able to include expenses incurred 8 weeks after the application date. All funds must be spent by December 30, 2020.
Eligible expenses are COVID-19 emergency related business expenses: (1) payroll costs & expenses; (2) short term debt such as credit card debt incurred to support business during emergency; (3) rent or mortgage payments, (4) utilities payments, (5) Personal Protective Equipment purchases, (6) business equipment purchases; (7) inventory replenishment or necessary re-opening expenses.
Commercial fishermen will need to document their eligible expenses, including tax returns, proof of permit ownership, vessel mortgage agreements or leases, and receipts for expenses. Eligible expenses can include vessel owner net self-employment fishing earnings shown on the 2019 tax return (Schedule C) and crew shares for each crew member, based on 2019 earnings as reported on 1099s. Copies of receipts, credit card statements or other account statements will be necessary to document other eligible expenses such as moorage and storage payments, utilities payments, including electricity, fuel, heating oil, phone and internet, purchase of personal protective equipment, or other equipment or maintenance that is necessary for a commercial fishing business operation. New equipment to expand operations or unnecessarily replace or upgrade currently functional equipment are not eligible grant expenses.
The program will run until (1) November 15, 2020; (2) the end of the declared COVID-19 emergency or (3) the allocated are funds spent. There are no fees, and no repayment is needed except in the case of malfeasance. Qualifying applicants will have to adhere to a grant agreement outlining grant fund conditions. DCCED encourages businesses that become eligible this week to begin preparing applications promptly by reviewing the program check list, examples of eligible expenses, FAQs, and other materials available on the program website.
Links to the online application and Frequently Asked Questions are here:
ALFA is providing overviews of these loan and grant programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice. The DCCED also recommends that applicants seek professional advice on the tax consequences of received grants from AK CARES.
ALASKA DED WILLING TO CONSIDER LOAN ASSISTANCE- Updated August 15, 2020
The Alaska Division of Economic Development – Investments (DED-Investments) is prepared to work with existing borrowers who may experience economic hardship related to COVID-19. DED-Investments has experienced staff specifically trained to understand the fishing industry, and they are equipped with the tools to assist affected fishermen.
DED-Investments’ approach is to work closely with individual borrowers to craft solutions that work best for each individual borrower. Solutions are pursued on a case-by-case basis, as each borrower’s circumstances are different.
If you are experiencing economic hardship or have any questions, contact the DED-Investments and ask to speak to a loan officer. The officer will explain all available options and provide as much assistance as necessary to find a solution.
DED-Investments staff can be contacted at (907) 465-2510, 1-800-478-5626 (toll free), or email@example.com.
CITY OF SITKA CARES GRANT APPLICATION NOW AVAILABLE- Updated August 10, 2020
The City of Sitka's CARES grant application is now available online. Boat owners and deckhands can apply for $2,500 to $10,000. We recommend you apply as soon as possible, and the deadline for application is August 31, 2020.
You can fill them out electronically or scan and email to firstname.lastname@example.org
CITY OF SITKA FINALIZES GRANT PROGRAM FOR SITKA BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY COVID-19, APPLICATION PERIOD ENDS AUGUST 31, 2020 - Updated August 8, 2020
At its July 28, 2020 regular meeting, the Assembly approved the distribution of a $5 million pool of funds for local non-profits and small businesses. The application period has started and will end at 5 p.m. on August 31, 2020. Eligible recipients will can apply for grants in the following amounts: (1) $2,500 for 2019 revenues of less than $100,000; (2) $5,000 for 2019 revenues between $100,000 and $250,000; (3) $7,500 for 2019 revenues between $250,000 and $500,000 (4) $10,000 for businesses with revenues exceeding $500,000. The City may adjust these amounts if demand exceeds available funds.
The purpose of the grants is to assist with business interruption costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including income lost due to shutdowns, additional operating expenses and other economic impacts. Funds may be used for future expenses or to cover for funds already spent. Eligible recipients must have experienced negative economic impacts due to COVID-19. Those impacts may include loss of sales or revenues due to shutdown measures, inventory loss, operating expenses incurred to protect staff and customer and may include funds already spent for those purposes. Funds must be expended by December 30, 2020. The City will not be requiring proof of spending after the fact. Applicants will not have to document economic losses but must provide a copy of a 2019 or 2018 tax return.
The City’s grant program includes commercial fishing businesses. The grant application does have a line where applicants need to provide a city sales tax registration number but commercial fishing business owners can leave that line blank because most commercial fishing vessel operators are not required to register with the sales tax office.
Commercial fishing business owners who are not permanent Sitka residents also may apply if they “have significant permanent business operations physically conducted within the boundaries of the City and Borough of Sitka.” Non-resident commercial fishing business owners can meet this criterion by having permanent moorage for their fishing vessel in Sitka. Deckhands may also apply for the grants provided they are Sitka residents, have been present in Sitka for at least 180 days in the last 12 months, and have experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19.
Because of the August 31, 2020, deadline ALFA urges fishermen interested in these grants to apply soon. Applications and Frequently Asked Questions are available at the following links:
The City prefers online submissions by e-mail but will accept mailed applications. Grant applications and questions about the program may be submitted by email to email@example.com, or hand-delivered or mailed to the City and Borough of Sitka at 100 Lincoln Street, Sitka, AK 99835. The City will issue checks and send them by regular mail.
ALFA is providing overviews of these loan and grant programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM CHANGES
07/01/20 Update: The Senate voted to extend the Paycheck Protection Program. Our expectation is that the House will do the same- extend until the money runs out. If you have not yet applied please contact your local bank to fill out an application. Amending existing PPP applications is determined on a case by case basis; please contact your bank to see if you can amend your PPP loan to qualify for additional CARES Act support.
If you skipped getting the PPP disaster assistance because it seemed like a lot of work to just pay yourself and not your crew, now is the time to revisit that decision!
Now is your LAST chance to get 2 months of payroll for yourself AND your crew, even if you 1099 your crew.
Today, the U.S. Treasury Department released new guidance specific to fishing businesses.
Fishing boat owners can now count their 1099 crew as part of their payroll calculations. "A fishing boat owner may include compensation reported on Box 5 of IRS Form 1099-MISC and paid to a crewmember ... as a payroll cost in its PPP loan application"
Note, if your crew already received their own PPP loan, you cannot include them in your payroll calculations.
PPP applications must be submitted to the SBA by next Tuesday, June 30, so apply NOW (no later than Monday) with an approved SBA lender.
We've heard folks have had the best results with local community banks. The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod will accept your PPP application even if you don't bank with them. The bank can help you with the application or you can call SCORE or a Navigator.
Loans made after June 5 will have 24 weeks instead of 8 weeks to use the funds and the PPP loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs (at least 60%), interest on business mortgages, rent, and utilities, and you meet the forgiveness guidelines. There are allowances for Seasonal Employees.
New EZ application requires fewer calculations and less documentation. Details are available in the instructions to the new EZ application form (page 3).
You can use the EZ application if you:
Are self-employed and have no employees; OR
Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; OR
Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.
EMERGENCY RULE TO ALLOW IFQ TRANSFERS IN 2020
The emergency rule to allow IFQ transfers in 2020 was published on June 25, 2020 in the federal register.
Instructions on the transfer process are here:
The transfer application is here:
ADF&G PROVIDES GUIDANCE FOR $50 MILLION SPEND PLAN FOR COVID-19 DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS FOR ALASKA FISHERY PARTICIPANTS
On May 7, 2020, the Secretary of Commerce announced the release of $300 million in relief funds appropriated for fishery participants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Alaska and Washington State are the two largest recipients of CARES Act fisheries relief, each receiving $50 million. NOAA Fisheries established a cap of $50 million and then used revenue information from commercial and charter fishing sectors, aquaculture businesses, and processing/seafood sectors of coastal state to allocate the funding. Fishery participants who qualify for relief payments must incur, either directly or indirectly, a loss in revenues exceeding 35 percent compared to the prior 5-year average.
The funds will be available to mitigate direct or indirect fishery-related losses and impacts to subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries. There is a large pool of eligible “fishery participants,” including commercial fishermen, charter fishing operators, privately owned marine aquaculture businesses such as shellfish farmers, subsistence and cultural users, processors and other fishery related businesses. Businesses such as vessel repair operations, bait and tackle shops and seafood retailers generally will not be eligible for this fisheries disaster relief package.
NOAA Fisheries delegated relief allocation details to states and interstate marine fisheries commissions. The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) will distribute the $134 million in funds allocated to Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. The PSFMC will review applications and disburse funds after states develop “spend plans” approved by NMFS. The spend plans will describe funding categories, including direct payments to fishermen, fisheries infrastructure and/or fisheries-related education to address direct and indirect COVID-19 impacts.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is the lead agency responsible for working with Alaska resident fishery participants. Out-of-state residents who fish in Alaska, mostly from Washington state, will have to apply in their own state of residence. ADF&G is now beginning to evaluate how to proceed with the spend plan, using what it describes as “very broad guidance” from NOAA Fisheries. The agency has not yet developed eligibility criteria or finalized the application process. There is no formal comment period for the spend plan but ADF&G plans to work with representatives of eligible fishery sectors across the state to finalize the spend plan.
ADF&G’s initial guidance on the fisheries disaster relief indicates that Alaska will not necessarily exclude fishermen who have received assistance from other CARES Act relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program. Instead, fishermen receiving other relief will still be eligible to apply but the state will consider the amount of other relief received. The guidance explains that eligible fishery participants will likely have to add their fishery income, any other federal CARES Act relief such as Paycheck Protection Program loans with the amount of fisheries disaster relief requested. They must then certify that these income sources will not cause the sum of revenue from these three income to exceed participants average revenue earned across the previous five years.
ADF&G recognizes that many fisheries or underway or not yet prosecuted so is working with NMFS to ensure all fisheries are eligible and that applicants will have adequate time to submit applications. ALFA sent a comment letter to ADF&G shortly after NMFS released the funds and requested that the agency wait until the end of the season in order to determine which fisheries will experience the greatest revenue losses so as to target relief toward fishermen and coastal communities with the most need. The CARES Act requires expenditure of funds by September 30, 2021 but Congress wanted to see funds expended by September 2020.
$300 million is not a large sum given the diversity and scale of eligible commercial, charter, and aquaculture businesses and Tribal fisheries across the country. ALFA and other small boat fisheries groups from coastal states around the country have asked Congress to more fully fund relief efforts, including more funds for direct assistance to commercial fishermen and other investments to maintain the viability of coastal communities. Many fleets, particularly producers of high quality seafood served in restaurants, have faced major market price declines.
50 million is half the amount anticipated by Alaska based on its highly productive fisheries, which produce more seafood volume than all the other states combined - nearly 60 percent of all commercial fishery landings in the United States by volume, and one-third of the nation’s commercial fishery economic value. 15,592 Alaska residents participate in the state’s commercial fisheries. A recent McDowell Group report reviewing the state’s fishing industry identified 27,738 skippers and crew and 9,000 vessels participating in Alaska’s fisheries and harvesting 5.6 billion pounds of seafood worth $1.6 billion. 38 percent of this value accrues to Alaska residents.
Given the small amount of relief funds relative to the size of Alaska’s fisheries, ALFA has concerns about whether this aid package will adequately help southeast Alaska fishermen weather this storm. Southeast Alaska is one of the most important fishing regions in the state, with more fishery workers than any region other than the Bering Sea. According to the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s 2019 SeaBank Annual Report (pending, in press), seven of the top 100 fishing ports by value in the entire country are Southeast Alaskan communities. As recently as 2017, southeast Alaska fishermen generated a fishery ex-vessel value of $288.8 million – or nearly as much funds as Congress allocated to commercial and charter fishermen, seafood processors and Tribal fisheries in the entire country. There are roughly 2,700 commercial fishing permit holders and 2,400 crew members living in southeast Alaska communities. Their harvests supported over 4,500 processing jobs, generating $50 million in wages – or an amount equivalent to the State of Alaska’s share of the CARES Act fisheries disaster relief.
Other national fishery stakeholders share these concerns. As reported by the Washington Post in April, the fishing industry portion of the $2 trillion CARES Act spending package will not adequately mitigate losses incurred by the $100 billion U.S. seafood industry. In 2017, U.S. consumers spent $102.2 billion for fishery products - $70 billion at restaurants and food service, and $33 billion in grocery and retail sales for home consumption. According to Robert Vanasse, executive director of Saving Seafood, the $300 million allocated for fisheries disaster relief pales in comparison to the $9.5 billion allocated for livestock and other crop production. As explained by Vanasse, economic downturns could force thousands of commercial fishermen into bankruptcy with serious adverse effects on coastal communities throughout the country.
Massachusetts Senators also had concerns with the aid package. Massachusetts is second to Alaska in national fishery production and received $28 million in CARES Act relief funds. Senator Ed Markey stated that the $28 million in aid “should only be the beginning,” noting that his state hosted the highest valued port in the country, New Bedford, and $28 million would not adequately address the needs of the state’s fishing economy. In a recent letter to NOAA Fisheries, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other representatives explained that the coronavirus has caused restaurant closures and disrupted export markets in major seafood consuming countries such as China, leaving the U.S. seafood and fishing industries “under serious financial duress.” Washington Senator Maria Cantwell has noted that “due to the unique nature of fishing businesses, many have been left without federal assistance until now.”
ADF&G Guidance on progress on the spend plan to this point is available here:
$300 MILLION APPROPRIATION FOR FISHERIES DISASTER RELIEF IMPLEMENTED BY THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA)
Commercial fishermen will need relief due to the closures of restaurants and effects on other foreign and domestic wholesale and retail markets. Drops in prices and demand for fresh seafood have created a crisis for community-based fishermen and seafood businesses. Over two-thirds of domestic seafood consumption is in restaurants or through other food service establishments.
The CARES Act authorizes assistance to “fishery participants.” Congress appropriated $300,000,000 million for this program up front to that distribution of funds should occur without as much delay as other, separate fishery disaster relief packages. The pool of eligible “fishery participants” is very broad and includes Tribes, commercial fishermen, charter fishermen, fishing communities, some aquaculture businesses, processors and other fishery related businesses.
Qualifying participants must incur, either directly or indirectly, a loss in revenues exceeding 35 percent compared to the prior 5-year average. NOAA will facilitate the distribution of funds, but the agency is still developing the program. Preliminary information indicates that the proposed application deadline will be September 1st, but applicants should apply early (June) and then amend the application later if necessary. Funds could be made available within a fishing season.
Many uncertainties remain about the fishery disaster relief portion of the bill. The mechanisms for how the funds will be dispersed and who will receive funding are unknown. There is some concern that, in the absence of appropriate oversight, relief could go to big seafood firms and aquaculture, and smaller businesses may not receive funds in a proportionally fair manner. $300 million is not a large sum given the diversity and scale of eligible fishery participants across the entire country. Additionally, as the pandemic stretches into the summer, more relief may become necessary. There likely will be a 4th stimulus package coming out in the future.
As reported by the Washington Post earlier this month, the fishing industry portion of the $2 trillion spending package will not adequately mitigate losses incurred by the $100 billion U.S. seafood industry. According to Robert Vanasse, executive director of Saving Seafood, the $300 million allocated for fisheries disaster relief pales in comparison to the $9.5 - $14 billion allocated for livestock and other crop production. These same industries received $12 billion and $16 billion in 2018 and 2019 trade relief packages to mitigate losses from the trade war with China. Congress excluded the seafood industry from these two trade packages – even though many seafood products also experienced similar price reductions due to the trade war.
The disparity between relief amounts for protein producers leaves multiple “fishery participants” competing for a small amount of funds that are insufficient to mitigate losses to commercial fisheries alone. There are numerous hundred million dollar plus fisheries operating throughout the country and without equitable relief, price downturns could force thousands of commercial fishermen into bankruptcy with serious adverse effects on coastal communities throughout the country:
New Bedford, the top American port by seafood value, was worth $431 million in 2018. One of New Bedford’s major products, scallops, has experienced major price declines.
Sockeye production from Alaska, mostly from the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery, was 265.3 million pounds worth $351.5 million in 2018. Salmon price effects are unknown there is also uncertainty about Bristol Bay because of potential lost processing capacity caused by the virus.
In 2018 Alaska fishermen caught 576 million pounds of all salmon species, worth $598.1 million.
In 2018, fishermen harvested 146.2 million pounds of American lobster worth $624.2 million. Maine alone was responsible for 120.1 million pounds valued at $486.9 million. Media reports as of April 1, 2020 indicated prices drops for Maine lobstermen of nearly 50 percent.
Crab sales which rely on restaurants, have dropped precipitously for the nation’s second highest valued seafood, worth $645 million in 2018. 2018 Atlantic blue crab harvests of 137.4 million pounds were worth $188.4 million. Dungeness crab harvests from all Pacific Coast states of 68.3 million pounds were worth $239.3 million.
As previously noted, most top American seafood products rely on restaurants.
Source for fishery data: National Marine Fisheries Service. 2020. Fisheries of the United States, 2018. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA Current Fishery Statistics No. 2018. Available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/commercial-fishing/fisheries-united-states-2018.
NOAA has established a website to provide information about COVID-19 to fishery stakeholders. While there is no information directly about the fishery disaster relief package, the website does includes an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Use this email to share info about the impacts to your business and what your needs are. Input may go into the decision-making process of how these funds will be applied.
CARES ACT EXTENDS UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS TO SELF-EMPLOYED WORKERS, UNEMPLOYED ALASKA FISHERMEN SHOULD CONSIDER APPLYING SOON
The CARES Act extended unemployment insurance to self-employed workers. Fishermen who think they need unemployment insurance should begin the application process now. It is likely that unemployment benefits for self-employed workers such as fishermen will also be retroactive to February 2, 2020 or to the first week a claimant was unable to work, whichever is later. The State of Alaska’s unemployment office is now accepting applications for the “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” program, which provides benefits to individuals such as self-employed fishermen who would otherwise be ineligible for regular unemployment insurance.
One prerequisite to filing in Alaska is the need to have a “My Alaska” account. Fishermen who anticipate filing can sign up for this account now at: https://my.alaska.gov/NewAccount.aspx. Once you have a My Alaska account, you must first file for regular unemployment insurance prior to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance at http://my.alaska.gov/ and click on “Unemployment.” According to the state’s website, after taking this first step, you should then be able to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance at the same site.
The Department of Labor cautions that you may still receive a message stating that you are ineligible while the agency is still completing programming for eligibility determinations. You should submit wage and/or earnings information with your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance online application while this programming continues. You will need either your most recent 2019 tax filing or other documents that show employment and earnings prior to becoming unemployed due to the pandemic.
In general, eligibility criteria for the extension of benefits for the self-employed and other applicants will require you to certify that certify that your self-employment is your principle source of income and livelihood, and that COVID-19 has caused you to become unemployed. COVID-19 causes of unemployment can include direct diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19, the need to care for a family member with COVID-19 or provide child care during school closures, or being unable to reach a work place or losing prospective employment because of COVID-19.
The Act also appropriated funds for “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation” in the amount of $600 per week. The weekly $600 payment is a federal stimulus automatically added to the weekly amounts paid to eligible unemployment insurance claimants. The extra payment period began on March 29, 2020 and ends July 25, 2020. Alaska has received these funds and currently eligible claimants should be receiving the stimulus now. Fishermen who are new to the unemployment program and end up receiving the stimulus and other benefits should be aware that these benefits are taxable, and there is an option to choose tax withholding when filing a claim.
For those without internet access, the Juneau claim center can be reached at: (907) 465-5552 and there is a statewide number at (888) 252-2557.
State of Alaska facts sheets about unemployment compensation insurance in general and the $600 stimulus payment are available here:
A fact sheet about unemployment compensation insurance in Alaska for the self-employed is available here:
Other links to the state’s unemployment insurance website are here:
NEW ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS ON HOLD
According to the Small Business Administration’s website, the agency has not started the application period for new Economic Injury Disaster loans as it is still processing applications filed during the initial application period. The agency will provide updates on the availability additional Economic Injury Disaster loans as soon as possible. ALFA will monitor the website, and encourages fishermen interested in Economic Injury Disaster loans to also check in regularly at: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources.
Any individual who filed taxes as self-employed, a sole proprietor or independent contractor was eligible to apply for this loan. In most cases, crew were also eligible. The Small Business Administration’s website currently states (8:00 a.m. April 27, 2020) that is not accepting new applications due to the lapse in appropriations. Loan components for the initial application period were as follows:
(1) the loan initially included an option for an emergency advance of up to $10,000 that did not have to be repaid, but the Small Business Administration subsequently implemented a cap on the advance of $1,000 per employee;
(2) there was an online application process that is fairly streamlined so long as borrowers had basic tax return information at their fingertips;
(3) borrowers do not need to specify a desired loan amount - instead, the Small Business Administration would offer a specific amount and allow you for a six-month period to make the decision whether or not to accept the loan;
(4) long repayment terms of up to 30 years were a possible with a 3.75 percent interest rate and
(5) Funds were available for payroll, fixed debts, accounts payable and other standard operating costs that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.
(6) One of the most important things to remember in applying for this loan is to check the box requesting the advance – the Small Business Administration will not be responding to applications immediately and the best way to confirm receipt of the application is to check for the advance deposit in your bank account.
For fishermen who have already applied, the advances are taking two weeks to arrive rather than the anticipated 3 – 5 days. The Small Business Administration has been advising applicants that disbursements from the initial $300 million in appropriations will be for two months of working capital up to a maximum of $15,000 per applicant (in addition to the forgivable advance).
NOAA FISHERIES ALLOCATE $50 MILLION IN COVID-19 DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS TO DIVIDE BETWEEN ALASKA COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN, CHARTER OPERATORS, AND PROCESSORS
On May 7, 2020, the Secretary of Commerce announced the release of $300 million in relief funds appropriated for fishery participants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Alaska and Washington State will be the two largest recipients of CARES Act fisheries relief, each receiving $50 million – twice as much as any other state except for Massachusetts. NOAA Fisheries established a cap of $50 million and then used revenue information from commercial and charter fishing sectors, aquaculture businesses, and processing/seafood sectors of coastal state to proportionally allocate the funding. Fishery participants who qualify for relief payments must incur, either directly or indirectly, a loss in revenues exceeding 35 percent compared to the prior 5-year average.
The funds will be available to mitigate direct or indirect fishery-related losses and impacts to subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries. The CARES Act does authorize direct payments. There is a large pool of eligible “fishery participants,” including commercial fishermen, charter fishing operators, privately owned marine aquaculture businesses such as shellfish farmers, subsistence and cultural users, processors and other fishery related businesses. Businesses such as vessel repair operations, bait and tackle shops and seafood retailers generally will not be eligible for this fisheries disaster relief package.
There has been some concern that, in the absence of appropriate oversight, big seafood firms and aquaculture businesses could consume most of the relief package, and smaller businesses may not receive funds in a proportionally fair manner. $300 million is not a large sum given the diversity and scale of eligible commercial, charter, and aquaculture businesses and Tribal fisheries across the country.
For example, $50 million is half the amount anticipated by Alaska based on its highly productive fisheries, which produce more seafood volume than all the other states combined - nearly 60 percent of all commercial fishery landings in the United States by volume, and one-third of the nation’s commercial fishery economic value. 15,592 Alaska residents participate in the state’s commercial fisheries. A recent McDowell Group report reviewing the state’s fishing industry identified 27,738 skippers and crew and 9,000 vessels participating in Alaska’s fisheries and harvesting 5.6 billion pounds of seafood worth $1.6 billion. 38 percent of this value accrues to Alaska residents.
Many of the details of the fund allocation are unknown and delegated to states and interstate marine fisheries commissions. NOAA Fisheries will provide the $134 million in funds allocated to Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) for distribution. The PSFMC will also distribute an additional $1 million to Alaska Tribes and $5.1 million to West Coast tribes. The PSFMC will review applications and disburse funds after states and Tribes develop “spend plans” for approval by NMFS. The spend plans will need to describe funding categories, including direct payments, fisheries infrastructure and fisheries-related education to address direct and indirect COVID-19 impacts.
NOAA Fisheries has delegated state marine fisheries management agencies with initial responsibility to work with fishery participants to understand the fund distribution process. For Alaska fishermen, this means the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) will likely be the lead agency. ADF&G is currently working on a “spend plan” for allocating $24.5 million in disaster relief funds for fishermen and communities affected by the Gulf of Alaska cod crash. The agency provided a brief initial comment period and intends to release its plan for a second comment period later this spring, revise the spend plan and allow for a final public comment period prior to submitting it to NOAA Fisheries for approval. Notably, the state has proposed to allocate a third to half of the disaster funds for research projects rather than direct relief to fishery participants.
While the specifics of spend plans are uncertain at this time, the recent fishery disaster relief fund distribution for the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon crisis may foreshadow challenges with distributing a smaller amount of CARES Act relief funds to a larger and much more diverse pool of fishery participants. There were $56.4 million in funds allocated for the pink salmon fishery disaster. The PSFMC distributed $31.8 million to fishermen and $17.7 million to processors. There were significant differences in regional allocations – Prince William Sound and Kodiak fishermen received over $29 million in disaster relief, while southeast Alaska fishermen received $176,427 – less than Lower Cook Inlet, South Alaska Peninsula, and Chignik, which cumulatively are less than 15% the size of the southeast Alaska pink salmon fishery. Some southeast Alaska permit holders reported receiving checks for a few hundred dollars, while some Prince William Sound crew reported receiving checks exceeding $10,000.00.
ADF&G and the PSFMC will have to address the challenge of adding charter and qualifying aquaculture operations such as southeast Alaska’s oyster farms into the pool of eligible fishery participants. According to a 2015 NOAA Fisheries study, charter fishing is a $180 million contributor to Alaska’s statewide economy. In a recent letter to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, charter industry representatives explained that they are facing significant cancellations and additional challenges association with the cancellation of large cruise ship sailings and travel restrictions. Some operators have already cancelled their seasons. Others have cancelled trips at least through May and are awaiting decisions from the Governor’s office on visitor quarantine requirements before deciding whether to cancel operations in subsequent months. All will experience significant revenue declines.
If the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission were to allocate the entire $50 million to Alaska’s 15,592 resident skippers and crew, the relief package would amount to slightly more than $3,200 per fisherman. If ADF&G and the PSFMC decided to divide the funding in thirds between charter fishing and processing sectors and Alaska resident commercial fishermen, direct payments to Alaska’s 15,592 resident skippers and crew would be roughly $1,100.00.
Given the small amount of relief funds relative to the size of Alaska’s fisheries, ALFA has concerns about whether this aid package will adequately help southeast Alaska fishermen weather this storm. Other national fishery stakeholders share these concerns. Other CARES Act relief packages for small businesses have been difficult for commercial fishermen to access. Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell has explained that “[d]ue to the unique nature of fishing businesses, many have been left without federal assistance until now.”
According to Robert Vanasse, executive director of Saving Seafood, the $300 million allocated for fisheries disaster relief pales in comparison to the $9.5 billion allocated for livestock and other crop production. In 2017, U.S. consumers spent $102.2 billion for fishery products - $70 billion at restaurants and food service, and $33 billion in grocery and retail sales for home consumption. As explained by Vanasse, economic downturns could force thousands of commercial fishermen into bankruptcy with serious adverse effects on coastal communities throughout the country. Regions like southeast Alaska that produce high value seafood products for restaurant markets may be particularly vulnerable.
In a recent letter to NOAA Fisheries, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, which has the nation’s second largest commercial fishing economy, explained that the coronavirus has caused restaurant closures and disrupted export markets in major seafood consuming countries such as China, leaving the U.S. seafood and fishing industries “under serious financial duress.” Massachusetts received $28 million in CARES Act relief funds. Senator Ed Markey stated that the $28 million in aid “should only be the beginning,” noting that his state hosted the highest valued port in the country, New Bedford, and $28 million would not adequately address the needs of the state’s fishing economy.
Southeast Alaska is one of the most important fishing regions in the state, with more fishery workers than any region other than the Bering Sea. According to the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s 2019 SeaBank Annual Report (pending, in press), seven of the top 100 fishing ports by value in the entire country are Southeast Alaskan communities. There are roughly 2,700 commercial fishing permit holders and 2,400 crew members living in southeast Alaska communities. Their harvests supported over 4,500 processing jobs, generating $50 million in wages – or an amount equivalent to the State of Alaska’s share of the CARES Act fisheries disaster relief.
ALFA will monitor progress on Alaska’s efforts to develop its spend plan and update its website as more information becomes available.
NOAA Fisheries’ press release, including fund allocations by state is available here:
The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and information about distribution of the pink salmon disaster relief funds are available at these links:
Information about U.S. fisheries, including commercial fishery production by state, recreational fishing effort and aquaculture production is available in this report:
Below are links to recent media reports on the relief package:
ALASKA LOAN PROGRAMS
Alaska Department of Commerce web page also has links to state programs available to small businesses. The Division of Economic Development has a microloan program that provides short-term loans between $35,000 and $70,000 to resident small businesses for working capital, construction, or other commercial purposes. There are larger, rural development initiative fund loans with longer repayment terms available to businesses in smaller southeast Alaska communities for working capital, construction or other commercial purposes. These rural development fund loans are meant for smaller Southeast Alaska communities with less than 5,000 residents. The state’s Small Business Economic Development Loan Fund also has small business loan funds available for other purposes, such as business expansion.
Alaska Department of Commerce loan page has links to these loans: https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/EconomicRecoveryResourcesforBusiness/EmergencyBusinessAssistanceLoans.aspx
ALFA is providing overviews of these loan programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these loan programs to contact their banker, attorney, or accountant for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
COVID19 catcher and tender vessel procedures
Vessel action plans and travel Procedures
On April 23, 2020, the State of Alaska issued Health Mandate 017, which provides guidance for independent fishing vessels operating in Alaska during the 2020 season. The purpose of the mandate is to enact standardized protective measures for independent commercial fishing vessels operating in Alaska waters and ports to prevent, slow or disrupt the COVID-19 virus. Mandate 017 defines “independent commercial fishing vessels” as “catcher and tender vessels that have not agreed to operate under a fleet-wide plan submitted by a company, association, or entity that represents a fleet of vessels.” This definition applies to most ALFA member vessels.
The Mandate does not apply to skiffs operating from shore. The State of Alaska will be preparing specific guidance for commercial fisheries operating from skiffs over the next week, advises skiff fishermen operating in the meantime to operate using guidelines for charter fisheries and remote lodges available here: https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/0425-COVID-MANDATE-016-Attachment-J-Fishing-Charters.pdf ;https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/0425-COVID-MANDATE-016-Attachment-L-Lodging-and-Overnight-Camping.pdf.
You can read Health Mandate 017, access required forms, and review other state of Alaska health mandates at the following link: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates/.
All fishermen will need to review and carry Appendix 01 and Appendix 02 to Health Mandate 017. Appendix 01 is the “Alaska Protective Plan for Independent Commercial Fishing Vessels” and has seven specific sections that cover documents, travel procedures, and protective and screening measures and directives for use on-board the vessel and at port. Independent commercial fishing vessels must enact Appendix 01 protective measures and procedures, and other controls as necessary to ensure crew member compliance. This plan replaces the need to develop a Community/Workforce Protective Plan under Health Mandates 010 and 012. The following discussion is only a summary of Protective Plan requirements – vessel captains must review, carry and comply with the more specific directions provided in the state Plan.
Mandate 017 first requires that all independent fishing vessels must carry an “Independent Fishing Vessel Protective Measures Acknowledgement Form” acknowledging and agreeing to comply with Appendix 01 to Mandate 17. That form is available at: https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/COVID-MANDATE-017-Appendix-02-Acknowledgement-Form.pdf. Fishermen must retain the form and any other required documentation under the mandate and Appendix 01 for the duration of the 2020 fishing season. The form must be available to present to seafood purchasing agents, and federal, state and local authorities, including law enforcement and fisheries regulators. Additionally, vessel captains must maintain a ship’s log or other electronic document certifying crew screening, quarantining and on-board procedures taken should any crew member become ill.
TRAVEL PROCEDURES, SELF-QUARANTINING AND SCREENING
Crew arriving via airplane will need to wear cloth face coverings, carry documentation showing that they are a “Critical Infrastructure Worker” and, upon arrival in an Alaska port, proceed directly to their self-quarantine location, whether on board the vessel, hotel room, or other location. Crew or captains arriving from out of state must self-quarantine for 14 days. The Protective Plan provides nine additional directives for self-quarantining, including procedures for when crew are living on-shore, when new crew arrive at the vessel and accounting for transit time from out-of-state ports. Captains must interview crew with a series of health-related questions and ensure that crew are free of symptoms prior to allowing them to board the vessel. Importantly, vessels must fly a “Lima” flag when any quarantining crew are on board and have thermometers available as part of the physical screening process.
PROCEDURES IN PORT
Once self-quarantining is complete, the Protective Plan directs fishing vessel captains and crew to remain on their vessel in port except for essential purposes, such as offloads, grocery and other resupply and maintenance work. During these interactions, crew and shore-based workers must avoid face-to-face interaction. The Protective Plan recognizes that some fishermen live locally and those individuals must comply with Health Mandate 011 social distancing guidelines when returning to a local residence. If it is necessary to have a service vendor onboard the vessel, captains must conduct a screening and implement other measures specified in the Protective Plan to minimize contact between vendors and crew.
PROCEDURES ONBOARD A VESSEL
The Protective Plan provides recommendations and guidelines for social distancing onboard a vessel which may vary according to size and layout. Guidelines include protocols for galley and meals, vessel sanitizing, and individual hygiene. Where practicable, captains should assign one crew member with specific galley and sanitization duties. There must be a written procedure for vessel sanitizing. The Protective Plan also provides seven specific procedures in the event that crew become ill. They must be isolated if possible on the vessel as specified in the Protective Plan. Vessels that are unable to isolate individuals must then begin a fourteen-day period of isolation. Captains must contact a public health center if a crew member becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. In some cases, vessels with a mildly ill crew member may continue fishing and complete a fourteen-day quarantine at sea. State of Alaska officials encourage captains in this circumstance to operate within range of medical facilities in case the sick crew members condition worsens.
The Protective Plan components such as document retention, self-quarantining and other measures are mandatory. Violations are subject to civil and potentially serious criminal penalties. The State of Alaska will not be conducting rigorous enforcement and expects commercial fishermen to comply in their own best interest. Any fleet failures to adhere to Health Mandate 017 could result in additional fishery restrictions.
Some communities will have stricter standards. The State advises commercial fishermen to comply with local community standards and work with the State to resolve conflicts.
United Fishermen of Alaska recent Health Mandate 017 webinar is accessible at: http://www.ufafish.org/ufa-covid-19/.
WHEN CREW MEMBERS SHOW SYMPTOMS
If a crew member starts showing symptoms of COVID19, follow the protocol for Quarantine/Isolation. Contact a healthcare provider, as well as the harbor master, when returning to port for further instruction and next steps.
aLFA Comments on COvid-19 stimulus package
Below please find ALFA comments on the COVID19 stimulus package. These range from Sitka specific to programs with regional, statewide, and national opportunity/impact. While small scale fishermen need immediate assistance to survive the pandemic and its impacts on seafood markets, ALFA’s hope is that longer-term investment will be focused on supporting a more sustainable industry and a more resilient seafood delivery system.
WEB AND OTHER RESOURCES:
The Small Business Administration has a non-profit partner, SCORE, that also provides extensive information and assistance with CARES Act programs: https://www.score.org/coronavirus-sba-loans-and-cares-act-assistance
For general information and links associated with the Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 assistance programs: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19
For information about the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan programs: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance
There is an excellent, one and a half hour webinar accessible through the front page of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association website. ALFA urges fishermen seeking additional information about CARES Act loans to view the webinar at: https://www.mainecoastfishermen.org/
Questions? Contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339).
ALFA is providing overviews of these loan programs as general information for commercial fishermen and fishery support businesses. This information is not legal or financial advice. ALFA urges individuals interested in these loan programs to contact their banker, attorney or accountant for specific advice regarding eligibility for their particular situation.
The website for the Paycheck Protection Program is available at:
The Small Business Administration also updated its “Frequently Asked Questions” page about the Paycheck Protection Program this week:
For general information and links associated with the Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 and other assistance programs: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19; https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance;
Questions? Contact us
Debbie Rinckey: 907-862-0319
Linda Behnken: 907-738-3615