New England states reach consensus on plans to distribute federal disaster assistance
Eligible Rhode Island fishermen will receive over $32K each
Providence, RI - Rhode Island's Congressional delegation today joined with Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and Janet Coit, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), in announcing a compromise agreement reached by the state fishery directors from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York and officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for a framework for the distribution of a portion of $32.8 million in federal fishery disaster funding to help fishermen in the Northeast region. The distribution plan calls for Rhode Island to receive $1,938,617. This includes direct assistance to eligible permit holders and state-specific grants.
These funds are part of a multi-million dollar fund that the delegation helped secure in the Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act to respond to six declared fishery disasters throughout the nation. In 2012, the Secretary of Commerce declared a disaster for the Northeast groundfishery due to sharp reductions in catch limits anticipated for the 2013 fishing year. Earlier this year an agreement was reached to ensure that Northeast fishermen will be among the beneficiaries of $32.84 million of this disaster relief funding.
Under the plan adopted by the states and NOAA, one third of the funding – about $10.9 million -- will go to fishermen in the form of direct assistance. In Rhode Island, 43 permit holders in the state with over 5,000 pounds of groundfish landings in any one of the past four years (2010-2013) will receive direct assistance of $32,463 each.
Another third will go to the states based on groundfish landings by homeport. This funding will be available for states to use for industry support at their discretion, with some restrictions. Rhode Island's share from this pot is over $542,000.
The final third is being held back as NMFS, state directors, and the fishing industry determine whether a viable plan for a voluntary capacity reduction can be developed.
"I applaud our Congressional delegation for helping secure important funds to those affected by the groundfish disaster and additional discretionary money to Rhode Island for groundfish related projects," said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee. "The commercial fishing industry is one of Rhode Island's premier economic assets, and we must work to continue to ensure its health and vitality."
"The states, in consultation with fishermen and NMFS, have worked hard to reach this compromise. I have worked for years to deliver this much-needed economic assistance and clearly there is more hard work ahead, but this is an important step to get money directly to fishermen and provide Rhode Island and other states with additional resources to respond to the unique needs of their fishing communities," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Commerce Justice Science Appropriations Subcommittee who led the bipartisan effort along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to include this emergency funding in the 2014 Appropriations bill.
"Senator Reed and I fought hard to secure federal disaster funding for fishermen in New England, and I'm glad to see some of that funding now flowing directly to Rhode Island fishermen," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "Commercial fishing is part of our state's economic and cultural heritage, and I'll continue working with our fishermen to support this important industry."
"Since the disaster declaration, my colleagues and I have worked hard to bring economic assistance to our fishermen and fishing communities," said U.S. Representative Jim Langevin. "This announcement is an important step to help mitigate losses from the fishery disaster. As our fishermen continue to work with state officials and NMFS to confront these hardships, I will carry on my work in Washington to ensure that all parties have the resources they need to address the current conditions of our fisheries and the challenges ahead."
"I commend all of the state leaders, in particular Director Coit, and NMFS on working together to reach this agreement that will provide much needed assistance to Rhode Island's fishing community," said U.S. Representative David Cicilline. "Rhode Island's coastal economy and fisheries are critical to our state and provides good-paying jobs to hardworking men and women. I will continue working with state and local partners to ensure they receive the support they need from the federal government."
"Rhode Island is fortunate to have strong support from our Congressional delegation for our commercial fishing fleet. From supporting funding for major improvements to the Port of Galilee, to this success at providing additional federal funds to address the reductions in groundfish quota, they have a track record of standing up for our fishermen," said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "The agreement reached by the states and NOAA Fisheries generally comports with the priority interests of the RI commercial groundfish industry, which has been our sole focus. We stand ready to assist in conveying the funds to our fishermen, and look forward to working with them on programs to stabilize and strengthen the fishery."
NMFS says it plans to work closely with the states to complete required reviews of state grant applications and spend plans for both the direct assistance grants and the state grants to distribute this portion of the funds as quickly as possible. Typically, there is a two- to three-month review to ensure statutory and grant requirements are addressed before the funds can be made available to the recipient.