Bipartisan group in Congress calls for further COVID-19 aid for seafood processors
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives have signed onto a letter calling for more aid for seafood processors and processing vessels.
The letter, signed by over a dozen members of Congress, calls for U.S. Department of Agriculture Acting Secretary Kevin Shea to implement a program offering grants and forgivable loans to support seafood processing facilities and processing vessels. The loans would help processors and vessel operators implement COVID-19 response measures.
“Seafood processors around the nation are conducting regular testing to ensure their workforce in coastal communities remains COVID-free, providing quarantine housing for employees to complete the recommended 14-day isolation period, chartering secure transportation for employees traveling to remote processing facilities, and marshalling a range of other resources to ensure and enforce safe working conditions,” the letter states. “These protocols are expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars through next year, much of which cannot be covered by other Federal assistance programs.”
Among the signers of the letter are the entirety of Maine’s congressional delegation – Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins and Independent Angus King and Democratic U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden – along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
Other signatories are: Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana). The remaining U.S. representatives signing the bill are: Suzan DelBene (D-Washington), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington), Marilyn Strickland (D-Washington), and Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon).
The letter calls for Shea to implement and fund the program quickly to “effectively design and streamline delivery of assistance.”
“Given the complexity of U.S. seafood supply chains, the success of seafood processors to meet and overcome the challenges created by COVID-19 is directly linked to the success of fishermen who risk their safety to harvest the seafood that Americans enjoy,” the letter states. “If processors cannot operate due to COVID shutdowns, independent fishermen have no market for their product and no revenue to support their small businesses. Federal support to help seafood processors weather the pandemic is urgently needed - without it, our nation’s entire seafood industry may falter.”
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