Since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, Maine’s commercial fishing industry has experienced a decrease in demand in both domestic and international markets. While Maine is beginning to see a slow increase in demand and the push for direct sales has offered some relief, fishermen along Maine’s coast are still struggling. Some decided to cut back how often they fish, some are holding out until demand picks up, and others are forfeiting the summer fishing season entirely.
MCCF remains committed to understanding the various financial assistance programs available to fishermen and other seafood-related small businesses affected by the pandemic. Below you will find helpful information including financial assistance programs, applying for a license to sell seafood directly to consumers, and more. If you have a question, please do not hesitate to contact the MCCF office at 207.367.2708.
Federal Unemployment: The CARES Act expanded the time and level of compensation for unemployment payments. It also allowed self-employed, part time, gig workers, and independent contractors (1099 workers) to file for unemployment – and included an additional $600 per person to supplement their state unemployment. You must be laid-off due to COVID-19 to collect.
How to apply: Contact the Maine Department of Labor at 800.593.7660, available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Status as of August 26, 2020: The additional $600 benefits expired on July 31, but negotiations have taken place to extend extra federal unemployment supplement. Those receiving unemployment will begin to receive an extra $300 per week. It will take about three weeks to set up and administer the new program. Mainers will not need to call or apply separately for this benefit.
Expires: December 27, 2020
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: (PUA) provides unemployment for those who are not eligible for regular unemployment including the self-employed, including fishermen, harvesters, and aquaculture farmers. DOL began accepting applications May 1, 2020. PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits.
How to apply: Visit the Maine Department of Labor website to apply.
Expires: December 31, 2020
In May, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) was notified that Maine has been allocated $20 million in CARES Act relief funding to support the recovery of Maine’s commercial fishing, seafood, aquaculture, and charter fishing industries from the financial impacts of COVID-19. DMR anticipates that they will be reaching out to all potentially eligible parties this summer to determine how these funds will be distributed. If you are a license holder, make sure that DMR has your most up-to-date contact information. They will be sending letters regarding the application process as well as following up with an email for those license holders with an email address.
Update (October 26, 2020): Those who provided an email address to DMR should have received a notice about whether or not they are eligible to apply for CARES Act relief funds via email or directly in the mail. If you are eligible, apply here. Seafood dealers and processors can also submit an application online. If you are not eligible and would like to appeal this decision, you may do so here. A list of frequently asked questions related to the CARES Act can be found on the Maine DMR website.
Small Business Assistance
For immediate assistance, we recommend you contact your lender or local bank for guidance. Note that the bank you choose to work with MUST be an SBA approved bank.
SBA Payroll Protection Program: The SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided small businesses with zero-fee loans of up to $10 million to cover payroll and other operating expenses. Up to 8 weeks of payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs can be forgiven. Payments on principal and interest are deferred for six months. Fishermen were eligible for these funds but the program has now closed.
How to apply: Contact your bank/lender.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): EIDLs are loans up to $2 million (interest rates of 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits), and principal and interest payments deferred at the SBA’s discretion. The SBA is also offering to advance businesses a $10,000 disaster grant that does not need to be paid back. You can apply for this $10,000 grant as part of the EIDL process.
How to apply: Complete the online application here.
Helpful Links and Resources
Congressman Jared Golden’s COVID-19 resource guide
Seafood Marketing for Fishermen
Apply here for a state permit to sell directly to consumers.
Apply here for a federal permit to sell directly to consumers (federally fished waters).
A helpful infographic for shellfish harvesters who want to learn more about direct sales.
Review state shellfish regulations here.
If you are unsure about a rule or regulation, contact your local marine patrol.
How and Where to Purchase Maine Seafood
Below is a list of resources to help you locate where you can purchase and enjoy Maine seafood. Visit your favorite restaurant and be sure to ask for local seafood options.
List of seafood retailers and local restaurants that serve locally-source seafood dishes (Deer Isle, Stonington, and Blue Hill Peninsula)
What Have we Done at MCCF?
– This spring, we coordinated with area fishermen who donated live lobsters for local
schoolchildren with our “Lobsters for Lunch” program. Students from Deer Isle-Stonington, Brooklin, Sedgwick, Blue Hill, and Surry enjoyed a locally sourced lunch, which included a lobster roll.
– Maine Community Foundation awarded us with a $10,000 grant to address food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Deer Isle, Stonington, and the Blue Hill Peninsula. We distributed funds to local organizations including the Healthy Island Project, Healthy Peninsula’s Magic Food Bus, Island Nursing Home and Care Center, Island Food Pantry and Tree of Life Food Pantry. Each organization used these funds to purchase locally sourced seafood to support the local seafood economy, which has felt repercussions due to the pandemic.
– Organized and hosted a community seafood celebration the first week of August encouraging our neighbors to support the local seafood economy by purchasing seafood at area restaurants and seafood retailers.
COVID-19 has greatly affected Maine’s commercial fishing industry. Together we can continue to support this resilient industry. To learn more about MCCF and our work please visit our website and consider making a gift of support to continue our mission and provide valuable resources to Maine’s fishing communities. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates and other helpful resources as they become available.