Canadian government kicking off seafood harvester COVID-19 aid program

Seafood harvesters in Canada can submit applications for the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program from 24 August to 21 September, according to a 5 August announcement from the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan.

The Government of Canada dedicated CAD 469.4 million (USD 350 million, EUR 297 million) in funding to the program, which was created in May in order to assist fish harvesters impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the single largest investment in Canada's fisheries seen in nearly two decades, officials said.

“The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program was designed to work within the unique pay structures and seasonal nature of the fishing sector. It will help to ensure that Canada's hardworking fish harvesters get the financial support they need right now, while also positioning the sector for a strong recovery in the long-term,” the government said in its press release.

"Our fisheries operate under a unique structure and have faced distinct challenges throughout this pandemic,” Jordan added. “That's exactly why we created the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program– to meet those needs head-on. We've been working around the clock to develop a simple, accessible system to deliver over CAD 469 million to Canada's fish harvesters as smoothly and quickly as possible. That's why it was important for us to announce this in advance of 24 August, to ensure applicants have time to prepare. Our goal is, and has always been, to get the hardworking women and men of Canada's fisheries the support they need, and that's exactly what we'll continue to do."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada are providing detailed information on the application process well in advance of 24 August. The agencies said “all harvesters wishing to apply should visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website” to determine eligibility and “find out what documentation is required to complete the application process.”  

"We are ensuring Canada's fish harvesters have the support they need in this sector. Service Canada is dedicated to supporting Canadians applying to the new Fish Harvester Benefit and the new Fish Harvester Grant. Clients who need assistance are encouraged to call our specialized call center for additional support during the application process," Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen said.

Canadian officials view fisheries as a “driving force” in the country’s economy.

“[Fisheries] are vital to our country's food chain, and an integral part of the culture and way of life for coastal communities. The Government of Canada will continue to support fish and seafood harvesters because when our fisheries thrive, all of Canada benefits,” the government stated.

In other efforts undertaken by the country’s government to support seafood businesses in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade Mary Ng embarked on virtual visits throughout Atlantic Canada this week. Ng’s tour began with meeting members of the Canadian Lobster Council to discuss the obstacles currently being faced by the lobster industry, which “supports more communities in Atlantic Canada than any other seafood fishery” and provides thousands of regional jobs, a press release recounting Ng’s meetings noted.

“This has been a Team Canada effort from the start, and our government will continue to support businesses in Atlantic Canada and the entire country every step of the way through this crisis. Whether it's family-owned businesses in Miramichi, dynamic start-ups in St. John's, tourism operators in Cavendish, or innovative women entrepreneurs in Glace Bay, we're going to be there for Canadian business owners to help them rebuild in the months to come," Ng said.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Coast Images/Shutterstock


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