The Salem News
---- — BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is proposing to provide disaster relief funds to Northeast fishermen in the first amendment she’s filed since taking office.
The amendment introduced by Warren, a first-term Massachusetts Democrat, would allow funds in the 2014 budget to be set aside to aid fishermen around the region. No amounts are specified.
Last year, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared economic disasters in several fisheries, including the Northeast. Fishermen there who target bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as flounder, haddock and cod, are facing huge cuts in their 2013 catch allotments that many fear will wipe out the fleet.
The cuts come amid poor reports on the health of key stocks of cod, and even though the local fishing industry has generally fished at or below the levels recommended by science for the last decade.
Late last year, the Senate approved $150 million in emergency aid to be split between fisheries in the Northeast, Alaska and the Gulf Coast.
The money was included in a disaster relief bill for Superstorm Sandy. But the House never took up the bill, and the Sandy relief package passed this year didn’t allocate any money to New England fishermen.
In a statement yesterday, Warren said hardworking fishing families deserve federal aid.
“We must support our fishermen in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast who are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time,” she said.
Warren’s bill has seven Democratic co-sponsors, including Massachusetts Sen. William “Mo” Cowan, New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Maine Sen. Angus King.
The Republican version of the bill was filed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and has seven GOP co-sponsors.
Both amendments specify that the disaster relief funds from fishermen can’t increase the deficit. The Republican amendment differs because it says the aid can’t be funded with new taxes.