Georgia becomes latest state to gain CARES Act spend-plan approval

Published on
August 28, 2020

Georgia has become the latest state in the U.S. to gain approval from NOAA for its plan to allocate its CARES Act funds to relevant seafood industry interests in the state.

The funds are part of a USD 300 million (EUR 252 million) pot of funds allocated to 20 states in May. Each state received a separate portion of the money, with Georgia receiving just over USD 1.9 million (EUR 1.59 million) – among the lowest amounts awarded.

The approval of the spend plan has Georgia joining five other states who have also had their CARES Act spending plans approved, with each state divvying up funds in a different way depending on the nature of the seafood industry in each state. So far, SeafoodSource has obtained spend plans from all but one state, Louisiana, which was approved in early August but has yet to make a spend plan publicly available despite repeated requests.

As a part of NOAA’s requirements for the spend plans, funds may only be allocated to businesses that suffered a loss of revenue of 35 percent or greater compared to the prior five-year average, or a loss to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.

Georgia’s commercial seafood sector has not had to endure any shutdowns, however, the state’s spend plan still acknowledges the industry has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to market and restaurant closures both in and outside of Georgia, seafood industry participants were unable to sell their product,” the plan states. “While some sectors can store products long-term, Georgia’s crab and shellfish harvesters rely on selling fresh products.”

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources’ (GADNR) spend plan has decided to allocate funds based on individual need, rather than by sector. In other words, the funding will be awarded based solely on the revenue loss of the business regardless of what sector it is in, though the GADNR decided to exclude bait, tackle, gear, and vessel suppliers, as allowed under Section 12005 of the CARES Act.

“There are hundreds of businesses that sell fishing tackle in addition to other goods. GADNR has no source to verify data from these types of retail businesses, which would preclude verification of loss,” the plan states.

Georgia is sending applications for funding to known fishery participants, “based upon license sales and landings reports.” In addition, the GADNR is planning social media postings, press releases, and legal advertisements in order to alert participants to the availability of aid.

“To distribute aid as quickly as possible, GADNR will request applicants sign affidavits attesting to revenue loss as well as disclosure of other federal and/or state COVID economic relief aid. This affidavit will be part of the application package,” the plan states.

Aid will then be determined after each application is reviewed and verified. No minimum or maximum payments are being applied by the state: If the loss of revenue totals less than the USD 1.87 million (EUR 1.57 million) the state has to allocate – minus administrative fees – the individuals will be paid the exact amount of lost revenue. If the total exceeds that number, “the individual’s proportion will be applied to the award amount to determine aid.”

“Upon verification and completion of appeals, recipient information including award amount will be forwarded to ASMFC for payment,” the plan states.

To be eligible, applicants need to be a Georgia resident; have a valid GADNR commercial fishing license, commercial vessel license, saltwater guide license, seafood dealer license, Georgia Department of Agriculture seafood dealer license, or be a Georgia Department of Agriculture licensed seafood processor; must have reported landings in at least one year between 205 and 2019; and suffered losses of greater than 35. In addition, funding the applicant receives cannot boost the applicant’s revenue over the five-year average when taken into consideration with other COVID-19 related assistance or traditional revenue.

The state also decided that giving aid to individual crew members, due to the nature of Georgia’s governance of crew, would be too difficult.

“Attempting to equitably reach all impacted crew members is difficult at best,” the plan states. “Ultimately, the decision was made not to provide aid to crew members.”

The current spend-plan timeline has relief funding being mailed to those affected by COVID-19 sometime in September, although that schedule is dependent on approvals.

Photo courtesy of James P Mock

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