State fisheries officials are drawing up a plan to distribute $50 million in federal relief to Alaska fishermen affected by COVID-19.
This month NOAA Fisheries announced $300 million in CARES Act funding to be distributed nationwide. Department of Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Rachel Baker says details of the state’s plan on how to distribute Alaska’s share remains a work in progress.
“The funds are distributed to provide relief as soon as possible,” she told CoastAlaska on Tuesday. “But we also need to balance that with the fact that some of the eligible fisheries included in the assistance are either ongoing or have not started yet.”
The state’s plan will likely be overseen by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. But Alaska officials and lawmakers have been pushing for the state to cut the checks directly.
“My number one concern is that it not fall into the hands of Pacific States,” Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, chair of the House’s fisheries committee. She’s been critical of the commission’s handling of the 2016 Pink salmon relief funding.
“They handled the pink salmon disaster funds and that was nothing short of a disaster,” she said.
Alaska fishermen didn’t receive payouts until this year.
Baker says the state’s negotiations are ongoing with federal fisheries officials to avoid delays.
“We have heard those concerns,” she said. “And so we are examining mechanisms to get the funds directly in the most expeditious manner either from NOAA Fisheries or the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission for the state to take the lead on.”
Those eligible for funding include commercial fishermen, charter guides, tribes, employees of seafood processors and subsistence users in Alaska’s state and federal fisheries.