Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo taken in January 2017 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo taken in January 2017 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Feds extend sign-up date for industry relief program

Jan. 15 is new deadline for Seafood Trade Relief Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced an extension of the sign-up period for the Seafood Trade Relief Program, designed to mitigate impacts from the retaliatory trade sanctions imposed on the seafood industry from foreign governments.

The program is extended to Jan. 15.

To date, USDA’s Farm Service Agency has paid more than $140 million on nearly 6,000 applications, with approximately 2,700 applications in process. USDA considered several factors in extending the deadline, such as the reliance of potential applicants on postal mail service in remote areas of the U.S. and the fact that the salmon and halibut fishing seasons just recently ended in Alaska, which represents the largest pool of potential applicants.

Additionally, many potential applicants are new to FSA and may need additional time to establish eligibility.

USDA is continuing to work with SeaGrant Extension Agents and other partners to promote the program and help fishermen apply once they come off the water.

For more information on the program, including guidance on how to apply, visit farmers.gov/seafood or call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.

Meanwhile, the City of Homer has sent emails to vessel owners who home port in the Homer Harbor announcing that even if they qualified for relief funds due to the coronavirus pandemic, most of the funds have already been allocated so they may not be able to receive them due to the “first come, first serve” policy. More applications were submitted than funds were available.

An email sent from the City of Homer by program manager Sara Perman to some fishermen regarding their Fisherman Economic Relief Grant status stated that even though they were eligible, “it is my regret to inform you that not all eligible applications, including yours, can be funded at this time due to limited funds.”

“The Homer City Council set aside $1,300,000 for the FERG program, yet we received upward of $1,500,000 in grant requests,” the email states. “Applications have been approved on a first-come, first-serve basis. To date, we have awarded $1,160,000 in funds. $140,000 has been set aside for an appeal process.

Perman added that any funds left over after the appeals process concludes will be awarded to eligible applicants who were not initially approved due to funding.

“These funds will also be awarded based on the date received. As it stands, the current cut off is for applications received on Nov. 25 or later. The appeals processed will be finalized by Monday, Dec. 21,” after which she will be sending out follow-up emails with notice of award.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

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