Editor's Log: Where’s the Equity in Funding? - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Where’s the Equity in Funding?

In a 2019 report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Kentucky leads the way in the U.S. in terms of funds returned federally against monies paid by taxpayers.  Other states in the $2 and up range include Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia.  On the other hand, there are 10 states that get back less than they pay in federal taxes, five of which are here in The Fisherman’s readership region including New Hampshire (98 cents), New York (86 cents), Massachusetts (83 cents), Connecticut (74 cents) and of course New Jersey (82 cents).

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced on May 7 the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for coastal and marine fishery participants negatively affected by the COVID–19 crisis.

According to the Commerce Department, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is being tasked with working with each state to develop “spend plans” consistent with the CARES Act.  Members of the affected fishing industry will be working with their state marine fisheries management agency, and the plans and procedures would move up the ladder from there to NOAA for guidance.  Those eligible for funding include commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses.

However, in their May 7 announcement, it was stated that “NOAA Fisheries generally does not expect bait and tackle operations and gear and vessel suppliers to be eligible.”  Mind you, bait and tackle shops were not excluded by Congress in the CARES Act legislation, so I asked Russ Dunn, NOAA’s National Policy Advisor on Recreational Fisheries for clarification on the term, “fishery-related business.”

“The legislation does not exclude them and it will be up to the states to determine eligibility beyond the 35% revenue loss requirement in Act,” Dunn said.  So while Congress didn’t include or exclude tackle shops, I was curious as to why NOAA Fisheries saw fit to put actual language into their interpretation that questions tackle shop eligibility.

“For context, while bait and tackle shops in some states were closed, they were not closed in others,” Dunn explained, adding “In states where fishing was not restricted or bait shops closed, we have received a stream of anecdotal reports that there is record crowding out on the water of people both boating and fishing.  I have witnessed this myself in Florida where I’ve been out fishing from Sarasota down to Ft. Meyers (90 mile stretch),” Dunn told me.

Of the 31 U.S. states, territories and fishery participants eligible for CARES Act fisheries funding, New Jersey ranked 9th with $11.3 million, New York was 11th with $6.75 million, Pennsylvania came in at 17th with $3.36 million, Rhode Island was 19th and Connnecticut came in at 23rd. Floridians, who pay no state income tax, get $1.24 on every federal tax dollar spent. And Florida, where for-hire boats were sailing on May 1 and where there has apparently been  “record crowding out on the water by people both boating and fishing,” came in fourth on the nationwide list with $23.6 million in COVID-19 cash for fisheries. Go figure.

New York for-hires, tackle shops, bait and tackle distributors and other fishing related businesses should contact New York DEC’s Division of Marine Resources, 205 North Belle Mead Road, Suite 1, East Setauket, New York 11733. Phone: 631-444-0430. Email: FW.Marine@dec.ny.gov.

 

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