COVID-19: Resources for aquaculture farmers and seafood harvesters

Most seafood in the United States is eaten in restaurants. The social distancing measures being taken to stifle the spread of the coronavirus have heavily impacted the restaurant business and by extension the seafood sector. Below we try to summarize some of the programs available to help businesses respond to this crisis. We will do our best to keep this information up to date.

Unemployment Coverage for the Self-Employed (many fishermen and/or growers)

Self-employed individuals can now apply for Massachusetts unemployment benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.  It is an online application. A list of the information needed to apply, and a link to the online application can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-pandemic-unemployment-assistance

Financial Resources for Aquaculture & Seafood Businesses

Small Business Administration

The best source of information on the status of assistance or loans available is the Small Business Administration (SBA) itself.

The different types of loan programs available through the SBA are summarized here:
https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options

Internal Revenue Service

The IRS has made an Employee Retention Credit available for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-employee-retention-credit-available-for-many-businesses-financially-impacted-by-covid-19

US Department of Labor

Paid Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

US Department of Agriculture

For aquaculture producers, USDA is launching Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2) in September 2020 which will now include eligibility for losses in molluscan shellfish and seaweed crops not included in the first round of CFAP.  The program will have multiple ways to apply including an electronic option, for more information on the program see here: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap

And for aquaculture specifically: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/aquaculture

 The USDA Farm Service Agency will also be able to provide more information on CFAP.  They continue to offer loan programs as well, often available with low interest.  You can contact the Wareham office at (508) 295-5151 ext. 7252.  Dawn M. Wilhelmsen is the farm loan manager.

Help from a Person with Sorting Through and Applying for the SBA Programs and other Business Assistance Programs

SCORE
SCORE has a Cape and Islands chapter and offers small business mentorship, including assistance with emergency loan packages. They are scheduling meetings via phone, email, or video.
To connect with a business mentor start here : https://capecod.score.org/
SCORE is also maintaining a webpage with many resources for small businesses: https://capecod.score.org/resource/coronavirus-emergency-loans-and-benefits-small-business

Community Development Partnership
If you live and work in the communities of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Chatham, Brewster, or Harwich then you are in the service area of this organization.
For assistance with SBA programs contact Pam Anderson, Director of Business and Credit Programs at 508-240-7873 X 18 or pam@capecdp.org.
CDP is also maintaining a webpage full of resources: https://capecdp.org/covid-19-emergency-resources-1

Fishing Partnership Support Services 
This organization supports the health, safety, and quality of life of fishing families.  The Cape Cod Navigators for FPSS are Shannon Eldredge and Morgan Eldredge and can be contacted through this link: http://fishingpartnership.org/about/navigators-and-offices/
FPSS webpage of resources: https://fpcovid19.org/

Keeping Yourself up to Date on Available Relief Programs & Assistance

The Mass Aquaculture Association and the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association send regular email updates to their members with information about the financial relief opportunities and related announcements.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts maintains a webpage about relief for businesses:
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-and-guidance-for-businesses

The MA Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has compiled a list of resources available including funding opportunities https://www.mass.gov/guides/covid-19-resources-for-agriculture

Saving Seafood is a non-profit organization that conducts media and public relations outreach on behalf of the seafood industry, and communications to keep industry members aware of issues and events of concern.
They have compiled COVID-19 Response and Aid Information specific to the seafood industry.
They also regularly post seafood related news specific to the New England Region: https://www.savingseafood.org/tag/new-england/

The National Sea Grant Law Center has summarized resources available.

The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance is maintaining a page of updates and resources: https://www.capecodfishermen.org/item/covid19

Direct Relief for Fishery Participants

The CARES Act provided $300 million for direct relief to “fishery participants” which “include Tribes, persons, fishing communities, aquaculture businesses”. 

This will cover: 
(1) economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior 5-year average revenue; or  
(2) any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries” related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The MA Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting applications for CARES act fisheries relief for 4 different sectors: Commercial Harvest, For-hire Charter/Head Boat, Aquaculture, and Seafood Processors and Dealers.  More information on how to apply and the status of applications is available on this website, https://www.mass.gov/service-details/mass-cares-act-fisheries-relief

Where to find seafood?  

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is maintaining a list of open markets.

Or buy direct from the farm, here’s a list from the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association.

For those with questions on seafood safety, there is an FAQ, from the National Fisheries Institute.

Cape Cod BuyFresh Buy Local is maintaining a list of options for buying seafood locally – look on the last pages of this guide: https://www.buyfreshbuylocalcapecod.org/covid19/