Pennsylvania latest state to gain CARES Act spend plan approval

Published on
October 6, 2020

Pennsylvania has joined 11 other states to become the twelfth state to gain approval for its CARES Act spend plan.

The approval has it joining several other states, all of which had to go through a process with NOAA to gain access to funds that were released in May. The funds, which will be made in state-by-state allocations totaling USD 300 million (EUR 254 million), are intended to offset the negative economic impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the U.S. seafood industry.

“The seafood industry – commercial fisheries, aquaculture, processors, and wholesale dealers/distributors – was directly affected as restaurants and other retail distribution sources were forced to reduce operations, severely curtailing orders of fresh or frozen seafood,” the Pennsylvania spend plan states.

Pennsylvania was given just over USD 3.36 million (EUR 2.85 million) in relief funding. The state is a unique case compared to other states awarded funds, as NOAA’s data indicates that all annual revenue earned by industries relating to seafood is earned by the “seafood sector,” which includes seafood dealers, wholesalers, and processors.

While NOAA’s data says 100 percent of annual revenue in Pennsylvania is earned by the seafood sector – as opposed to for-hire fishing or commercial fishing and aquaculture – the state’s CARES Act spend plan, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), recognizes that other sectors in the state do earn money.

“The PFBC has elected to make relief funds available to other eligible sectors,” the state’s spend plan reads. “CARES Act relief funds will be available to Pennsylvania resident commercial fishermen, seafood processors, wholesale dealers/distributors, recreational for-hire fishing businesses, privately owned marine aquaculture businesses growing products in state or federal marine waters of the United States (i.e., shellfish leases, hatcheries, nurseries), and other fishery-related businesses such as bait and tackle operations which meet saltwater tackle sales criteria.”

Pennsylvania is splitting the funds into four separate categories, each getting a different percentage of the funds: Seafood processors, wholesale dealers and distributors, and aquaculture operations will receive 50 percent, or USD 1.59 million (EUR 1.35 million) of the funds; bait and tackle operations will receive 30 percent, or USD 952,000 (EUR 807,000); recreational for-hire fishing businesses will receive 15 percent, or USD 476,000 (EUR 403,000); and commercial fisheries will receive 5 percent, or USD 158,000 (EUR 134,000).

As with all states receiving CARES Act spending, any qualifying businesses must prove a greater than 35 percent decline in revenue in order to qualify for funds. In Pennsylvania’s case, the impact period runs from 19 Marth to 30 June, 2020.

“This period coincides with the beginning of the Commonwealth’s ordered closure of non-essential businesses, social distancing requirements, travel limitations, and the subsequent decline in the demand for fresh seafood products and services,” the plan states.

Applications will be reviewed over a 30-day period, and applicants will be required to provide proof of revenue loss, such as “payment records, notarized statements from buyers, amount of marine fisheries-related revenue that contributes to overall revenue, and/or other supporting information.”

Funds will be distributed based on the total revenue loss reported by all the businesses in one of the four sectors, minus any other assistance those businesses have already received for COVID-19. The total of the losses minus assistance will then allow the state to give each business a percentage compared to the total losses across the entire sector. That percentage will then by multiplied into the total funding available, giving the total funds that each business will receive.

The state gave an example: Suppose a business lost USD 43,900 (EUR 37,246), and received USD 2,500 (EUR 2,121) in aid. That would give them an eligible revenue loss amount of USD 41,400 (EUR 35,125). If the entire sector as a whole had an eligible revenue loss of USD 2,359,731 (EUR 2,002,070) than the business would represent 1.75 percent of the total losses in the whole sector. That percentage would be taken from the total aid to the sector of USD 1.59 million (EUR 1.35 million), ending up with the business receiving just under USD 28,000 (EUR 23,754) in CARES Act aid.

Pennsylvania’s current timeline has the program opening to applicants in December or January, with the PFBC processing and validating the applications from January through March 2021. The latest date that funding data is estimated to head to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission – releasing those funds to businesses – is June 2021, more than a year after the funding program was first announced.  

Photo courtesy of James M. Davidson/Shutterstock

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