Q. Who should affected fishermen and communities contact about accessing this funding?
A. Fishery participants eligible for funding—including Tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses—should work with their state marine fisheries management agencies (see above table for key state contacts along the West Coast and Pacific Territories) or Tribe to understand the process for applying for these funds.
Q. Can eligible fishery participants receive direct payments?
A. Direct payments are expressly allowed under Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act. The Commission’s grant application must meet the requirements of the CARES Act and reflect the appropriate use of funds and considerations as outlined in the Request for Applications, the Request for Applications letter and the allocation table provided.
Q. How long will it take for affected fishermen to get funding from the CARES Act?
A. There are a number of steps in the process that need to occur before fishermen will begin to receive funds. First, states will need to develop spend plans consistent with the CARES Act and NOAA’s guidance. These plans will include a time period for economic losses, and a method for assessing financial impacts to industry members and/or sectors. States will not be able to provide funding for potential future losses; they will need to wait for losses to occur in order to provide financial assistance to fishermen. Once state spend plans are approved by NOAA Fisheries, money can begin to be disbursed. The CARES Act also allows the funds to be awarded on a “rolling basis,” allowing for a portion of the state’s funds to be distributed in the short term with additional funds to be distributed at a later date based on future losses.
Q. What types of fishing-related businesses are eligible for assistance?
A. For the purposes of carrying out the provisions in Section 12005 of the CARES Act, “fishery-related businesses” primarily include commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and dealers. States and Tribes have the discretion to determine whether marine bait and tackle operations and marine gear and vessel suppliers are eligible for Sec. 12005 assistance in their spend plans, consistent with the requirements of the CARES Act. Businesses farther down the supply chain—including vessel repair businesses, restaurants, or seafood retailers—are not considered “fishery-related businesses” for the purposes of this funding.
Q. Which Tribes are eligible for assistance?
A. The definition of “fishery participant” identified in Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act, includes Tribal fishery participants. So, Tribes in coastal states with marine or anadromous fisheries and/or marine shellfish or finfish aquaculture operations are eligible for Sec. 12005 funds. Tribes in non-coastal states with freshwater fisheries will not be eligible for Sec. 12005 funds.
Q. Which types of aquaculture operations are eligible for funding?
A. Privately owned aquaculture businesses growing products in state or federal marine waters of the United States and the hatcheries that supply them are eligible for Sec. 12005 funding. This includes all molluscan shellfish and marine algae. Non-salmonid marine finfish grown in marine waters not covered by USDA are also eligible for Sec. 12005 funding.
Q. On what basis did the agency make the initial allocation decision? What data did the NOAA Fisheries use for the initial allocation decision?
A. To allocate the Sec. 12005 funds, NOAA Fisheries used a methodology that met our overriding goal to distribute the Sec. 12005 funds as quickly as possible while accounting for regional variability in the size of commercial, charter, seafood processors and dealers, and aquaculture industries.
Given the definition of “fishery participant” identified in Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act, NOAA Fisheries used readily available total annual revenue information from the commercial fishing, charter fishing, aquaculture, and seafood-related businesses of coastal states, Tribes, and territories to proportionately allocate the Sec. 12005 funding. NOAA Fisheries also took into consideration negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, and ceremonial fisheries during the allocation process.
NOAA Fisheries used readily available multi-year averages to estimate the total average annual revenues from commercial fishing operations, aquaculture firms, the seafood supply chain (processors, dealers, wholesalers and distributors) and charter fishing businesses from each coastal state, Tribe, and territory.
In general, NOAA Fisheries used a 5-year average of annual commercial fishing revenues as a baseline for this sector. Available multi-year averages of aquaculture revenues were also captured in the estimates of average commercial fisheries revenues.
Average annual landings revenue data from Alaska, New England, and Mid-Atlantic states were adjusted to attribute landings in those regions to a vessel owner’s state of residence to better reflect where fishing income accrues. These adjustments were made by determining the proportion of landings in a particular state attributed to vessel owners residing in another state and distributing revenue accordingly. A similar adjustment was also applied to at-sea processors on the West Coast but was not applied broadly to other fisheries on the West Coast or Pacific Islands, Southeast, and Gulf of Mexico fisheries, because comparable state-by-state vessel ownership data was not readily available. In addition, because those regions represent a relatively small proportion of the nation’s total commercial fishery landings revenues and are smaller in scale relative to Alaska fisheries and the West Coast at-sea processors, adjustments in those regions would not significantly impact the overall allocation across all applicable states, Tribes, and territories.
Average annual value-added estimates from the seafood sector (i.e., processors, dealers, and wholesalers/distributors) were calculated using NOAA Fisheries’ Commercial Fishing & Seafood Industry Economic Impact Model while Alaska and West Coast value added estimates were calculated from regional models. Multipliers were applied to commercial fishing and aquaculture operations revenues to account for the value-add generated by these components of the seafood supply chain (e.g., processing crabs into crab meat). A multiplier was also applied to available multi-year averages of Tribal and territorial commercial fishing operations to account for commercial, subsistence, cultural, and ceremonial fisheries. Furthermore, a 5-year average of for-hire angler trip expenditures was used to calculate average annual for-hire fishing revenues.
There are some exceptions where a multi-year average across all states was not available (e.g., select shellfish aquaculture) or the sources of data for an individual state or territory varied from the general data streams described above (e.g., based on data availability, for-hire revenues in Hawaii and Alaska were obtained from cost-earnings studies rather than angler expenditures.)
In addition to allocating the funds proportionately based on readily available total average annual revenue data, NOAA Fisheries established a minimum and maximum funding level that each state and territory received ($1 million and $50 million, respectively).
Q. Who will be responsible for determining if fishery losses exceed the 35 percent standard and applying for assistance?
A. Given the broad range of fisheries and entities affected across multiple jurisdictions, it will be important to provide states flexibility in determining how they will identify which fishery participants meet the requirements described in Sec. 12005(b)(1)-(2). Thus, each state/Tribe will be required to determine how they will verify which fishery participants meet the threshold of economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior five-year average or negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries. The spend plans will provide details on their proposed process for making these determinations.
Q. What are the next steps? When and how do Sec. 12005 funds get to the recipient?
A: NOAA Fisheries is currently working to execute and distribute the fisheries assistance funding provided by Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act as expeditiously as possible, while ensuring the proper level of executive oversight of these appropriated federal funds.
NOAA Fisheries is using the Sec. 12005 allocations to make non-competitive grant awards to the Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions (Commissions), U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Between now and the start of the grants, states, Tribes, and territories will be working to develop their respective spend plans for the funding they will be receiving.
Each state will develop a spend plan that determines how it will verify which fishery participants meet the requirements described in Sec. 12005(b)(1)-(2) (i.e., economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior five-year average or negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries). States will submit their spend plans through their respective Commission for NOAA’s approval. Spend plan submissions and approvals will occur on a rolling basis. This step in the process takes time as each state will have its own process for spend plan development. There are also special considerations that Commissions and states need to take into account, such as potentially staggering the disbursal of funds within their spend plans to account for different fisheries, fishing seasons, and industry sectors.
Once NOAA Fisheries approves a state spend plan, it anticipates the Commissions will disburse the payments to eligible fishery participants on behalf of the states unless otherwise specified by the state. This will allow the Commissions to distribute the assistance to eligible fishery participants at the earliest date possible.
Q: How will Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 funds be taken into account with respect to Section 12005 CARES Act funds?
A: Any funds received by individuals or businesses under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, should not be included in the determination of whether an individual or business had a greater than 35% revenue loss compared to the previous 5-year average under Section 12005 of the CARES Act. Any funds received from CFAP 2 should be included in the determination of whether an individual or business has been made “more than whole” as CFAP 2 is coronavirus-related aid. Therefore, consistent with our previous guidance, under Section 12005 of the CARES Act, NOAA is requiring fishery participants receiving Section 12005 CARES Act assistance to affirm that they are not making themselves “more than whole” as a result of the combination of financial assistance from Section 12005, other programs in the CARES Act (e.g., Payment Protection Program, CFAP 2), and their traditional revenue stream as compared to their total average annual revenue from the previous five years.
Q: What about residents who are not licensed in our state?
A: Generally speaking, as required by the Request for Assistance letter, individuals are expected to apply in their state of residence. Individuals who are residents of a state who did not receive CARES Act Section 12005 assistance, but who hold a valid permit in a state that did receive Section 12005 funds, may be eligible in the state they are permitted in, depending on the eligibility criteria established by that state in their spend plan. In developing the state-specific allocations of Section 12005 CARES Act funds, NOAA made a home-porting adjustment to commercial revenue to attribute revenue to an individual’s state of residence as opposed to where they land their fish based on the data NOAA had available. Therefore, non-resident, commercial fishermen should not be eligible for funds unless they are a resident of a state that did not receive an allocation under Section 12005 of the CARES Act. Likewise, a resident who lands fish elsewhere is still subject to this residency requirement. It is up to the states to determine the document(s) they will require to determine eligibility of fishery participants and if the state will allow state residents to apply who have Federal permits only or are permitted only in other states. Given the nature of aquaculture operations and processing/dealers, NOAA doesn’t anticipate there would be resident aquaculture and/or processor/dealers who would be permitted only in another state. With respect to the charter for-hire sector, there is flexibility for a state to allow non-residents to be eligible in the state they are permitted in. In all the above scenarios, the requirements of the CARES Act still apply (e.g., must have greater than 35% revenue loss compared to previous 5-year average, cannot be made more than whole).
Q: How will NOAA define if an entity is made “more than whole”?
A: Under Section 12005 of the CARES Act, NOAA is requiring those receiving assistance to affirm that they are not making themselves “more than whole” as a result of the combination of financial assistance from Section 12005, other programs in the CARES Act (e.g., Payment Protection Program), and their traditional revenue stream.
In general, Section 12005 of the CARES Act does not preclude recipients of other Federal assistance from accessing Sec. 12005 funds. However, there are several conditions that must be met in order to be able to receive both Sec. 12005 funds and other federal assistance. While fishery participants that are eligible for Sec. 12005 funding may also apply to other federal assistance under the CARES Act or other federal programs, they should not apply to other federal programs for assistance to address the same impacts resulting from COVID-19. For example, fishery participants could seek assistance to cover lost revenues from multiple programs, but if one program covers all lost revenue, they should not apply to another program to cover those same losses. Finally, individuals receiving federal assistance through multiple avenues, including Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act, cannot receive assistance above their total average annual revenue from the previous five years.
Q: Does the SBA Payroll Protection Loan disqualify me from applying for the CARES Act Fisheries Assistance?
A: Receipt of SBA Payroll protection loan (e.g. Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or Paycheck Protect Program (PPP)) does not automatically disqualify you from applying for CARES Act Fisheries Assistance. However, you will need to self-certify that the sum of all CARES funding, any additional COVID-19 related federal financial aid (including SBA loans), and traditional revenue, including state unemployment, does not exceed the average annual revenue earned across the previous five years.
Q: How will the USDA’s tariff relief program impact CARES Act assistance?
A: NOAA will not consider funds provided to fishermen under USDA’s Seafood Trade Relief Program (STRP) in its execution of CARES Act fisheries assistance. The STRP program is unrelated to COVID: it addresses only industry impacts from retaliatory trade tariffs in 2019. As such, the STRP is providing assistance to fishermen based on landings in 2019. The CARES Act fisheries assistance is based on revenue losses in 2020. The requirement that eligible entities cannot be made “more than whole” is based on the combination of 2020 traditional revenue, Section 12005 assistance and any other COVID-19 related federal assistance.
Q: Can an approved spend plan be modified?
A: If a state with an already approved spend plan would like to amend its plan to allow residents who are only federally-permitted or are permitted only in another state to be eligible, it should contact NOAA Fisheries. An amendment to the spend plan can be done via email with NOAA approval. NOAA will continue to work with those who have draft spend plans to make any adjustments needed as the states’ finalize their plans.