Details have emerged of a huge stimulus package designed to go some way to offsetting the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
Still awaiting approval by the House of Representatives, the bill, if passed, will provide a $300 million (€275 million) pot of funds for "fishery participants," including fishing communities and aquaculture and processing businesses that have incurred direct or indirect economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic of more than 35 percent of the average of their last five years of revenue, or any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.
Funds may be awarded on a rolling basis, and within a fishing season, to ensure rapid delivery during the ongoing pandemic.
The funds will be made available until Sept. 30 next year, only 2 percent of which will be allowed to go to administrative and oversight activities.
The package is part of the the largest economic stimulus package in recent US history and late Wednesday was approved by the US Senate, moving the estimated $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) bill to the House of Representatives, as Congress seeks to shield American businesses from the ravages of the pandemic.
The progress of this bill, which has been going back and forth for days, can't come soon enough for the US seafood sector, which Tuesday, in a letter signed by 84 high ranking seafood executives, pleaded with the Trump administration for some kind of protection as the collapse of the foodservice industry, in particular, sent a clamour of deafening warning bells across the industry.
Some 68 percent of the $102.2 billion (€94.7 billion) that US consumers paid for seafood in 2017 was spent at foodservice establishments.
"As a result, in many fisheries, the sudden near shutdown of restaurants and other storefronts has caused demand to evaporate overnight, threatening the continued economic viability of the entire supply chain," wrote seafood executives representing the likes of Pacific Seafoods, Cooke Aquaculture, Trident Seafoods and other giants of the industry.
"This could mean the loss of tens of thousands of well-paying jobs," they stated.
The House is expected to vote on the bill on Friday, with those who are unable to return to Washington due to movement restrictions, hopefully able to vote remotely, said House leader Steny Hoyer in a statement.