Seafood industry waiting for $300M from CARES act gets good news

Fishermen say they're running out of time

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The seafood industry has been hit hard by the closure of restaurants throughout the country but it could be a step closer to getting relief money after the federal government appeared to begin offering a state-by-state breakdown of the funds.

Confusion over who qualifies for CARES Act funding has delayed the money from being distributed to anyone, Ben Martens of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association told FOX Business

"It’s great we’re finally seeing some movement getting that money out the door," Martens said. "It’s not going to go very far in the state of Maine when you start thinking about the needs of the fishermen on the docks, the processors … Everybody needs help."

A fisherman gets ready to cut fish on the Pacific Horizon fishing Boat (owned by the Haworth family) at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on April 11, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by ARIANA DREHSLER/AFP via Getty Images)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, as part of the Commerce Department, has been responsible since late March for distributing the $300 million allocated by the CARES Act to aquafarmers and fishermen.

"NOAA Fisheries understands the urgent need for these funds, and our overriding goal is to distribute the assistance as quickly as possible. To that end, we are working daily with the Department and our federal partners to finalize a process to expedite the distribution," NOAA Fisheries wrote on its webpage.

FOX Business' inquiry to NOAA Fisheries was not immediately returned.

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Maine, which has an economy that relies heavily on seafood and tourism, will receive more than $20 million in CARES Act funding, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced on Thursday. For many Maine fishermen, it's a livelihood and a legacy, Martens said. FOr example, the Maine fisherman's association president is a tenth-generation fisherman.

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Even with the relief money, the seafood industry's future is far from certain.

Maine fishermen sell roughly 70 percent of their product to restaurants, which also have been struck by the pandemic, Martens said.

"We don’t know what the long-term impact going to be," Martens said. "We're looking around our community, seeing restaurants indicate that they're not going to reopen. … Even when we get back to hopefully normalcy, it's not going to be normal."

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