New Jersey is using $826,807 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reimburse the state’s seafood processors for covid-19-related costs that hit them in 2020 and 2021.

The NJ Seafood Processor Covid-19 Assistance Program is funded through USDA Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program, and follows the federal protocol for qualifying businesses for aid.

Eligible activities for reimbursement include:

• Workplace safety measures;

• Retrofit of facilities for worker and consumer safety;

• Market pivots;

• Medical costs associated with providing or purchasing COVID-19 testing.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Marine Fisheries Administration is working with the state health and agriculture departments to provide reimbursement to processors, including processing vessels and dealers, for pandemic-related costs between Jan. 27, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021.

“New Jersey’s fishing industry is a mainstay of our culture and economy, and many of these important businesses—including seafood processors—were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said in announcing the start oif the program. “DEP is proud to partner with the industry to ensure that this new funding goes a long way in helping seafood processors recover from operational challenges, continue business and be even more resilient and successful in the future.”

“Seafood processors took action to protect consumers and workers during the pandemic and these grants are important for them to recover some of those costs,” said state health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Applicants eligible for reimbursement must have held all required valid licenses and permits to operate as a seafood processor and/or dealer within the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service required timeframe. Neither cost sharing nor matching funds are required.

An at-sea processor is defined under the guidance as a vessel or other floating platform that can move from one location to another either in state waters or waters in an exclusive economic zone and receives and processes fish.

A dealer is the first entity to purchase and receive fish before selling directly to restaurants, markets, other dealers, processors or consumers.

The application period for the New Jersey assistance program will open this spring, with the date and details posted online at the DEP website.

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