Mississippi, Connecticut join list of states with approved CARES Act spend plans

Published on
October 15, 2020

Mississippi and Connecticut have been added to the growing list of states that have received CARES Act spend plan approval from NOAA Fisheries.

The two states will receive an allocated portion of the USD 300 million (EUR 256 million) that was released in May in order to offset negative revenue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that sum, Connecticut will receive just over USD 1.8 million (EUR 1.5 million) and Mississippi will receive a little more than USD 1.5 million (EUR 1.3 million).

Connecticut’s spend plan was created jointly by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which has regulatory authority over wild-caught fisheries; and the Department of Agriculture, which has authority over aquaculture operations.

As with all spend plans applicants – which Connecticut’s plan dubs “CARES Act Assistance to Fishery Participants” – must prove that they have had a greater than 35 percent loss of revenue from either commercial fishing, for-hire fishing, seafood dealing, wholesaling, or processing, or aquaculture as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other requirements are also similar to other states, such as proving residency in the Connecticut, disclosing the amount of aid received from other programs, and certification that the losses suffered have been greater than 35 percent.

Some of the requirements are sector-specific to either commercial fishing, for-hire fishing, seafood dealing/wholesaling/processing, and aquaculture. Those requirements are mainly related to licensing. For example, a Connecticut whelk fisher must provide proof that they have the relevant licenses. All sectors must also have “qualifying history;" in other words, a commercial fisher must have reported landings associated with a qualifying license for at least three of the last five years, or an aquaculture operation must have reported sales in 2018 and 2019.

Connecticut has also put in place a relatively low threshold on income percentage for eligible applicants of 20 percent – meaning applicants that can prove 20 percent of their income is derived from seafood-related activity qualify for aid.

Once applications have been received and processed, Connecticut is taking a so-far unique approach to distributing funds. The state is splitting the USD 1.8 million awarded to it in half, with USD 873,000 (EUR 745,000) to be set aside and distributed as a minimum payment. That payment will be determined by dividing the funds by the amount of applicants across all sectors, and giving the applicants the result of that number. Every applicant will then receive the same minimum payment, regardless of the number of sectors the applicant qualifies for.

The remaining funds will be allocated based on the revenue percentages-by-sector calculation created by NOAA, with small modifications. For-hire fishing operations will receive 15 percent of the remaining funds, commercial fishing 25 percent, aquaculture 25 percent, and seafood dealers, wholesalers, and processors will receive 35 percent.

All applicants who had losses greater than the initial payment will receive additional funding. Fishermen who earn greater than 50 percent of their income fishing will receive a higher payment than those who receive less than 50 percent, and will also receive an additional payment for each commercial fishing vessel they own holding a Connecticut commercial fishing vessel permit.

The remaining funds will be awarded to fishermen using a formula based on the amount of money remaining, the total number of qualified applicants earning greater than 50 percent of their income from fishing, the total number of applicants making less than 50 percent of their income from fishing, and the total number of qualified vessels.

The end result will be that applicants earning greater than 50 percent of their income from fishing will receive two-thirds of the remaining funding.

Similar percentages and formulas are also being applied to the other sectors. The end result is applicants will receive an initial minimum payment that’s the same across all sectors, and then a different, later payment based on the amount of applicants in each sector and the applicant’s specific income amount.

Mississippi’s spend plan has similar requirements for applicants – proving greater than 35 percent loss of revenue and self-certification of participation in fisheries or other parts of the seafood sector.

Mississippi has determined that, in order to distribute funds quickly, and due to limited funding, an equal amount will be distributed to all eligible applicants who qualify for aid.

“Please note, the demonstrated need may far exceed the funds available for disbursement,” the state wrote in a press release.

As of deadline, a full copy of the Mississippi's spend plan had not been received by SeafoodSource.

Photo courtesy of Terry Kelley/Shutterstock

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