April 29, 2020

Senators Markey and Warren, and Reps. Moulton and Keating Demand Immediate Guidance for Fisheries Disaster Assistance Funding During Coronavirus Emergency

CARES Act passed more than a month ago, and lack of guidance has caused confusion, extensive delay in distribution of financial assistance

Massachusetts (April 29, 2020) – Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives William Keating (MA-09) and Seth Moulton (MA-06) called for the immediate release of federal guidance for how fishery participants can access the designated $300 million in disaster assistance funding included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In their letter to the Commerce Department, the Massachusetts lawmakers report that it appears to be bureaucratic inefficiencies that are behind the failure to issue guidance in a timely manner and ask when it will be issued, as well as when assistance will be distributed. The CARES Act was signed into law more than a month ago, and while other programs have already released funding to provide economic relief to various communities and industries, the Commerce Department has yet even to release guidelines for how disaster assistance can be accessed by struggling fishing and seafood businesses. 


“This silence and delay poses a particular problem because fishery participants do not know how to determine whether they will be eligible for the CARES Act assistance,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The Commerce Department needs to issue guidance as soon as possible so that fisheries aid can reach those who desperately need it.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


In the letter, the lawmakers ask for responses to questions that include:

  • Which Commerce Department entity is principally responsible for the preparation and promulgation of this guidance?
  • When will the guidance be finalized and published? What issues remain to be resolved before this can happen?
  • Will the guidance be open for public comment before it is finalized or will it be issued in final form?
  • After guidance is issued, when does the Commerce Department expect to begin distributing CARES Act assistance to fishery participants?


On April 2, Senators Markey and Warren led a letter urging the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to act swiftly, equitably, and transparently in allocating fisheries disaster assistance funding. On March 23, Senators Markey and Warren, and Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan called on Senate leadership to include support for the fishing industry in coronavirus economic relief packages.