Carper, Blumenthal, Coons, Murphy letter to NOAA on fisheries
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator to be transparent, expedient, and fair in determining how Fishery Disaster Assistance funding is allocated to fishermen and seafood processors across the country, and urged the agency to consider a minimum allocation for smaller coastal states.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has devastated fisheries, fisheries distributors, and fisheries processors, who are experiencing severe economic losses as domestic purchasing has plunged and exports have slowed. With limited capital, fishing communities – business owners, crews, and processing plant workers – are facing unforeseen financial hardships that put their livelihoods at risk.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act appropriated $300 million to NOAA for fishery disaster assistance. However, NOAA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are still considering how to distribute these funds among impacted fishing states. Without a minimum allocation, larger operations may receive a disproportionate amount of available funds, leaving struggling small businesses in states like Delaware and Connecticut with little help—and little recourse.
“As NOAA continues its process of determining how it will distribute this critical funding, we urge you to be as transparent and communicative as possible and to engage a wide range of fishery participants,” the senators wrote.
“Further, we strongly urge you to consider a minimum allocation for small, coastal states,” the senators continued. “Doing so will protect struggling small fishing operations that might be underserved if funding is distributed in proportion to the value of commercial fisheries in each state without instituting a minimum allocation. We fear that any allocation to states based solely on commercial landings may not accurately reflect where our fishermen live and work.”
The full text of the letter may be read here or below.
April 29, 2020
Mr. Chris Oliver
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue, Northwest, Room 5128
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Assistant Administrator Oliver:
As you know, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136), which Congress passed and the President signed into law on March 27, 2020, included $300 million for fishery disaster assistance. The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 have created a substantial need for this assistance. Fishery stakeholders in our states are eager to understand how the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will allocate this funding. In order to address concerns among stakeholders in our states, we urge you to establish a minimum allocation for small, coastal states.
Our constituents have expressed frustration with the pace and lack of transparency in NOAA’s development of an allocation formula. As NOAA continues its process of determining how it will distribute this critical funding, we urge you to be as transparent and communicative as possible and to engage a wide range of fishery participants.
Further, we strongly urge you to consider a minimum allocation for small, coastal states. Doing so will protect struggling small fishing operations that might be underserved if funding is distributed in proportion to the value of commercial fisheries in each state without instituting a minimum allocation. We fear that any allocation to states based solely on commercial landings may not accurately reflect where our fishermen live and work. We urge NOAA to carefully consider this among the multitude of factors when making allocation determinations – not basing allocation of funds on limited landing data.
Lastly, we want to express the importance of NOAA distributing funding quickly and efficiently, particularly as fishery participants are having trouble accessing Small Business Administration (SBA) funding. Fishing operations are unique, and many fishery participants do not have the data or structure required for SBA eligibility. Additionally, just as demand for SBA funding far exceeds current needs, we anticipate the demand for NOAA fishery disaster funding will far exceed availability. The sooner this funding is distributed, the sooner we can work together – with your agency and our fishery participants – to assess outstanding need.
We stand prepared to discuss any of these matters with you. Thank you for your consideration of our request.
/s/ Thomas R. Carper /s/ Richard Blumenthal
THOMAS R. CARPER RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
United States Senate United States Senate
/s/ Christopher A. Coons /s/ Christopher S. Murphy
CHRISTOPHER A. COONS CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY
United States Senate United States Senate
CC: The Honorable Russell T. Vought, Acting Director, Office of Management and Budget