Lawmakers press for next phase of fishing aid

The second disbursement of $8.3 million in fishing disaster funds has stalled at NOAA headquarters in Maryland, prompting a letter from some members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation seeking the release of the funds.

The letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, dated Dec. 5, asks for Pritzker’s help in releasing the funds before the end of the calendar year. NOAA Fisheries falls under the purview of Pritzker and the Commerce Department.

“The ongoing groundfish disaster has had a huge economic impact on fishing families and communities in Massachusetts,” said the letter signed by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, as well as Rep. William Keating, D-New Bedford. “In many cases, the financial hardship is now acute.”

On Oct. 24, the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries submitted the state’s grant application to NOAA Fisheries for the $8.3 million in state-specific grants included in the second installment of fishery disaster financial aid.

Massachusetts received $14.8 million from the $75 million in fishery disaster funds Congress allocated in January. Beginning in August, the state distributed the $6.5 million contained in the first phase, paying $32,500 each to about 200 federal permit holders in Massachusetts.

The DMF application for the second phase of funding includes about $3 million for an expanded group of federal permit holders and another $3 million that represents the first direct assistance to crew members.

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