House passes amended Rescue Plan, keeps amendment for seafood purchases

The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on 10 March to a USD 1.9 trillion (EUR 1.6 trillion) COVID-relief spending plan that includes some opportunities for the seafood industry to benefit.

A spokesperson for U.S. President Joe Biden said during the vote that he is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday, 12 March, according to C-SPAN.

H.R. 1319, also known as the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by a highly partisan 220-211 vote. Only U.S. Representative Jared Golden, D-Maine, voting no kept this from being a pure partly-line vote. The House, which initially passed the bill in the early morning hours of 27 February, needed to reapprove the legislation after the Senate made changes before it passed it on Saturday, 6 March.

One of those changes occurred to a USD 4 billion (EUR 3.4 billion) appropriation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Senate’s version includes seafood among the commodities the Secretary of Agriculture may purchase with the funding. It also allows the secretary to provide grant or loan funding to small- or mid-sized seafood processors, allowing them to respond to the pandemic and protect their workers.

MarketWatch reported the amendment was offered as a sweetener to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Although she still voted against the spending plan, the amendment remained.

While there are no other specific mentions of seafood or fisheries in the spending bill, there are other provisions that could help the industry.

For example, the bill includes a USD 28.6 billion (EUR 24 billion) Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will allow the U.S. Treasury to award grants of up to USD 10 million (EUR 8.4 million), or USD 5 million (EUR 4.2 million) per location, to cover a restaurant. The funding would allow restaurants to cover such expenses as food and beverage costs. That language is similar to the RESTAURANTS Act that was filed in Congress last year, and National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Sean Kennedy praised the passage of the bill.

“Today Congress spoke with one voice in support of the restaurant industry. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will keep doors open in restaurants large and small in every community,” he said. “Their work in refining the RESTAURANTS Act on behalf of all restaurants gives chefs, owners, and employees around the country new hope.”

In addition, state and local governments will receive direct aid out of a USD 350 billion (EUR 293.69 billion) allocation. Governments can use that money to address “negative economic impacts” related to the pandemic. That includes aid to such affected industries as tourism, travel, and hospitality.

The bill also includes USD 3 billion (EUR 2.52 billion) in economic adjustment assistance, which can cover “economic injury” resulting from COVID. Of that funding, USD 750 million (EUR 623.3 million) has been set aside specifically for the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors.

Photo courtesy of Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock


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