Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Joe Courtney (2nd District of Connecticut)
NORWICH, CT – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Governor Ned Lamont, Commissioner Katie Dykes of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture announced the application period for more than $1.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to benefit Connecticut’s shellfish farmers and fishermen. The new federal relief funding was awarded to the State of Connecticut through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Assistance to Fishery Participants program, and was authorized by Congress through the CARES Act. The funding has officially been made available following NOAA’s approval of Connecticut’s spend plan for the proposed manner in which federal funds will be disbursed to qualified applicants.
Today’s announcement comes following U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) September 21st update on round two of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2), which expanded CFAP eligibility to Connecticut shellfish farmers after months of exclusion. With DEEP’s spend plan approved by NOAA and financial assistance through CFAP 2 now expanded, Connecticut’s shellfish and aquaculture farmers are finally eligible to start receiving the financial assistance they need.
“Approval of Connecticut’s spending plan means that two streams of federal COVID financial assistance are officially on the table for an industry that has been excluded for months now,” Congressman Joe Courtney said. “We announced just recently that our shellfish farmers are eligible for direct payments through round two of CFAP, and with another $1.8 million now available through our state’s utilization of NOAA funding, we’re starting to see some real progress in getting our shellfish farmers the assistance they need. There’s more work ahead, and my office is ready to help any and all of our aquaculture producers who are interested in applying for these new funding opportunities.”
“This relief is vital for our farmers and our fisheries and exactly the kind of funding that’s needed during this pandemic,” said Governor Lamont. “These funds send a message that these industries are keeping Connecticut residents employed, and our economy moving. We are fortunate to have Rep. Courtney working on behalf of Connecticut residents, and with our agencies, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture.”
“We are committed to provide Connecticut’s commercial fishermen with timely, transparent, and equitable access to these vital relief dollars while distributing the funds in a manner that best mitigates the impact across the industry and provides the best possible foundation for a post-pandemic recovery,” said DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes.
“Both the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) and the NOAA program will provide much needed relief to the state’s aquaculture industry; and by extension the local economies of our shoreline,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “We’ve been working with state and federal partners to ensure that all of Connecticut’s shellfish growers receive financial assistance to offset the market disruptions caused by COVID-19.”
Next week, Governor Lamont, Commissioner Dykes, Commissioner Hurlburt, and Rep. Courtney will join eastern Connecticut shellfish farmers to highlight the availability of these new funding opportunities. More information will be available soon.
Applications for Connecticut’s CARES Act Assistance to Fishery Participants (CAAFP) program are being accepted now through October 30th. Click here to learn more. Participation in NOAA programs will not affect an aquaculture producer’s eligibility for CFAP 2.
Signup for CFAP 2 began on September 21st, and runs through December 11th. Click here to learn more.
The pandemic has caused substantial negative impacts to the U.S. marine fishing industry by shutting down seafood markets and creating hazardous conditions for operation of fishing vessels. In Connecticut, many commercial fishing vessels have remained tied to the dock throughout the pandemic, and those boats that have fished have received low prices for their catch. Connecticut for-hire recreational fishing vessels, or “charter boats”, have been limited in the number of passengers they can carry due to social distancing requirements, and have seen reduced demand for for-hire fishing trips. Seafood dealers, commercial shellfishers, and marine aquaculture operators have seen domestic demand for seafood plummet as a result of widespread restaurant closures.
DEEP’s Fisheries Division, in cooperation with DOAG’s Bureau of Aquaculture, which regulates the Connecticut aquaculture industry, has received approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for their spend plan that details the proposed manner in which CARES Act Assistance to Fishery Participants (CAAFP) aid funds will be disbursed to qualified applicants. To qualify for CT CAAFP aid, applicants must be Connecticut residents, must participate in the commercial fishing, for-hire fishing, seafood dealing, or aquaculture sectors, and must have suffered at least a 35% loss in revenue in 2020 as compared to the prior 5-year average (2015-19).
Rep. Courtney has been pushing USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross to provide additional aid to Connecticut shellfish farmers since May, when USDA made the decision to exclude certain shellfish aquaculture producers from CFAP eligibility. In June, Courtney wrote to Secretaries Perdue and Ross requesting immediate assistance for aquaculture producers in Connecticut through CFAP and through NOAA. On July 10th, Courtney and the Connecticut Congressional delegation called on Secretary Perdue to reverse USDA’s decision to prohibit shellfish farmers from receiving direct payments through CFAP. On July 23rd, Courtney led a letter to House and Senate Leaders urging them to provide support for shellfish and aquaculture farmers in the next COVID-19 economic relief package. On September 21st, USDA announced that Long Island Sound shellfish growers would be eligible for CFAP 2.