Kennedy: Coronavirus aid for fisheries 'insufficient'

Matthew J. Lee/AP photoRep. Joe Kennedy III, who is challenging Sen. Edward Markey in the Democratic primary for senator from Massachusetts, is calling on the U.S. Commerce Department to release more aid for state fishermen affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The $28 million in COVID-related federal assistance to help the Massachusetts seafood industry is insufficient "and will not address the economic pain felt throughout the commonwealth," U.S. Senate candidate Joseph P. Kennedy III stated in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Kennedy, who represents the state's 4th Congressional District, blamed the insufficiency on the lack of employment data in the funding methodology used by NOAA Fisheries to distribute the $300 million in federal fisheries assistance to individual states.

In May, NOAA Fisheries, which is part of the Commerce Department, announced Massachusetts will receive $28,004,176, or 9.3% of the $300 million included for fisheries assistance in the Coronavirus Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

The Massachusetts allocation is the third highest among the 24 states, two tribes and five U.S. commonwealths and territories receiving federal fisheries assistance. Only Washington and Alaska, which are set to receive $50 million each, received more funding than the Bay State.

"The commercial and recreational fishing industry supports more than 97,000 jobs and generates more than $8.7 billion in sales for Massachusetts, yet the commonwealth was allocated only $28 million, a mere $288 per job," Kennedy wrote in his letter to Ross. "Massachusetts will receive up to $670 less per job than other states despite the outsized role the commonwealth plays plays in the overall fishing industry and economy."

NOAA Fisheries, in announcing the allocations, said it used a revenue-based methodology "that met our overriding goal to distribute the (funds) as quickly as possible while accounting for regional variability in the size of commercial, charter, seafood processors and dealers, and aquaculture industries."

Kennedy said that methodology resulted in an unfair allocation to Massachusetts.

"I urge you to work with NOAA Fisheries to reconsider Massachusetts's allocation and the use of employment data in the administration's funding methodology," Kennedy wrote to Ross. "Massachusetts fishermen are fighting to stay in business during an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Please do not make them fight alone."

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