More than $4.3 million distributed to eligible fishing stakeholders for COVID relief

Published 7:13 pm Thursday, February 17, 2022

MOREHEAD CITY — More than $4.3 million in financial relief is on its way to eligible members of the fishing industries who sustained income losses from March to December of 2020 due to COVID-19.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries issued funds this week to 265 commercial fishermen and marine aquaculture operations, for-hire fishing operations, and seafood dealers and processors deemed eligible for relief from the federal North Carolina Consolidated Appropriations Act Fisheries Relief Program (CARES Act II). Payments were made in the following categories:

In August 2021, North Carolina was allocated a net amount of $4,385,651 from CARES Act II to provide financial relief through direct payments to fishery-related stakeholder groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal law required applicants to 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 relief, in combination with any other CARES Act-related relief received, would not result in overcompensation for their financial losses in calendar year 2020.

The division developed a spending plan with public input for the program that was approved by NOAA Fisheries in August 2021. Applications were accepted from Aug. 16 to Oct. 1, 2021. No relief funds could be distributed until all applications and appeals were reviewed and finalized because the funds were allocated based on the proportion (percentage) of total eligible claimed fishing loss revenue within a stakeholder group relative to the total pool of money available to that group.

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 $439,198.44. This amount compensated for 100% of approved losses in the For-Hire Operations category and left $613,357.56 unexpended. The CARES Act II spending plan allowed excess funds to be transferred from a fully compensated category to the category with the lowest proportional compensation, so the unexpended amount from the For-Hire Operations stakeholder category was reallocated to the Seafood Dealers and Processors category. This raised the compensation for the Seafood Dealers and Processors from 4.5% of approved losses to 9.93% 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 28.95% of approved losses.

Additionally, $160,295 was used for division administrative costs.