CARES Act grants $300M to help the fishery and seafood industry recover from COVID-19 pandemic

Mar 27, 2020


The United States House of Representatives is planning to convene today (Friday, March 27, 2020) and vote on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (AKA the “CARES Act”). The legislative intent of the CARES Act is to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The CARES Act is estimated to have a $2+ trillion sticker price and is set to provide an unprecedented amount of financial and tax resources to distressed businesses and individuals. The goal is to mitigate the economic impacts the coronavirus is having on our domestic and global economy. The U.S. Senate already voted unanimously to pass the 888-page bill earlier this week, and it’s likely the House will approve the majority of that language at some point today.

The challenge the House has is to safeguard the interests of taxpayers and make sure that financial aid is confined to the truly needy, which is obviously easier said than done. And whether the CARES Act will actually mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak or just provide distressed small business and large corporations with free federal money is anyone’s guess. Indeed, it’s clear that a lot of the world’s leadership is just throwing darts at the board on this one. That said, Congress is convinced money will solve this problem, which is why Uncle Sam is set to make it rain (Gangster Style) by tossing federally guaranteed Benjamins to individuals and businesses across the U.S.A. The question now becomes: how can individuals and businesses get their hands on some of that $2 trillion.

Based on the current text of the CARES Act, it looks like the fishing and seafood industry is going to get some real financial help. Under Sec. 12005 (Assistance to Fishery Participants), Congress has set aside at least $300 million to help “fishery participants” which includes Tribes, persons, fishing communities, certain aquaculture businesses, processors, or other fishery-related businesses that have suffered a financial impact (directly or indirectly) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The catch, these businesses and individuals need to show at least a 35% revenue loss (as compared to the prior 5-year average); or show how the coronavirus has had a negative impact to its subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries (which obviously applies to Tribes rather than businesses or individuals).

All in, this is great news for the fishing and seafood industry. Especially because “fishery participates” is so broadly defined, which means the potential applicant pool could arguably apply to more than just the fisherman and processors. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine the swath of seafood businesses that could be classified as “other fishery-related businesses”. The point being, this legislative ambiguity is great news for distressed businesses that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus, which is why any individuals or entities in the fishing or seafood industry should jump on this financial opportunity afforded by Congress. It’s rare to get help from Uncle Sam these days and when the money is gone, it’s gone.

About the author

Isaak Hurst

Isaak’s current list of clients includes shipowners, charterers, shipyards, seafood companies, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, carriers, offshore oil and gas companies, mining companies, construction companies, and other entities and persons engaged in the maritime and transportation industry.

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