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Graves’ Statement on Baffling CARES Act Fisheries Funding

March 29, 2021
Press Release
Louisiana only provided $12.4 Million from $255 million available

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) released the following statement regarding the abysmal $12,477,165 allocated to Louisiana fisheries to mitigate the economic hardships accrued by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress included $255 million to address impacts to recreational and commercial fishers who have been negatively affected by COVID–19. Yet again, only 4.9 percent of the available funds was provided to Louisiana despite being one of the top fisheries states in the nation. Last year, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Louisiana only received $14.7 million of the $300 million allocated (the first allocation of this kind).

“It’s like déjà vu for Louisiana’s fisheries. We made it clear last year that their funding allocations were fundamentally flawed. Even though we were able to get a much better allocation for Louisiana in a second funding tranche related to freshwater impacts, it is inexcusable that they are doubling down on their mistake.

“Washington State is receiving $40 million compared to Louisiana’s $12.4 million when we have a 50 percent greater value to our fisheries landings. Florida receives $19 million, even though Louisiana brings in 50 percent greater value. Oregon receives over $13 million and California $15 million when we have more than double their fisheries by value and triple by poundage.

“It makes no sense yet again how Louisiana, one of the top fishing states in the nation, to only receive this much while other states with a fraction of a fishing industry get more money? They slapped us in the face last year, and then came back again while the wounds were still open.

“Louisiana is the second-largest seafood supplier in the nation, with one out of every 70 jobs dependent on the industry, creating an economic impact in the billions annually and serving as the economic engine of local communities. We are one of the nation’s leaders on shrimp, crawfish, blue crabs and oysters – as well as recreational fishing of which we are one of the top states in the country.

“South Louisiana and the fishing communities are still hurting from the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway, several natural disasters in 2020, the past year of COVID-19 closures on businesses and communities, and the repetitive competition faced with the falsely labeled crawfish from China and imported shrimp taking precedent in the market over our domestic and sustainable seafood products.”

To read more about the U.S. Department of Commerce allocation process and a summary of allocations, click here.

Background on efforts toward relief for Fisheries during COVID-19 can be found here or below:

On May 7, 2020, Graves released a statement regarding the $14,785,244 allocated to Louisiana fisheries to mitigate the economic hardships accrued by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress included $300 million to address impacts to recreational and commercial fishers who have been negatively affected by COVID–19. To read more about the U.S. Department of Commerce allocation process and a summary of allocations, click here.

Graves worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Shrimp Processors Association on shrimp purchases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. Graves had announced the USDA decision to purchase U.S. shrimp for distribution to community food and nutrition programs nationwide after working with the USDA to secure a commitment of up to 20 million pounds from Louisiana and Gulf Coast shrimpers and processors. By supplying healthy U.S. shrimp, members of the American Shrimp Processors Association can clear their inventory to sustain their businesses in the meantime, shrimpers can sell their catch and communities in need can be fed. The CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act included additional support for USDA programs that provide food to distressed communities. Graves sent a letter to then USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue thanking him for directing the AMS for purchasing the wild-caught, warm-water shrimp landed in the U.S.

On August 12, 2020 Graves announced that Louisiana crawfish is now included in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Graves had been pushing the USDA to make this critical program extension a reality as Louisiana’s seafood industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also issued guidance in April 2020 based both on legislation passed and requested by Graves. The legislation enabled FEMA, the State (Louisiana), or parishes an opportunity to either acquire food for hunger organizations like the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank to distribute or to provide financial resources for food banks to acquire and distribute food.

On April 10, 2020, Graves sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards and then FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor highlighting the existing authority under the Stafford Act, which was activated by the presidential disaster declaration, that allowed Louisiana, USDA and FEMA to expeditiously intervene in the urgent matter. In 2018, Congress passed Graves’ legislation to specifically create the authority for FEMA, states and parishes to collaborate with food banks.

On May 20, 2020, Graves also announced Louisiana would receive an additional $58,343,185 in fishery disaster funding to offset the impacts of the 2019 Bonnet Carre Spillway opening on Louisiana’s fisheries and other impacts. Louisiana became eligible to receive this disaster assistance due to the previously declared disaster declarations for fishing communities by the U.S. Department of Commerce after Hurricane Michael.

Congress appropriated $100 million in the 2019 Consolidated and Supplemental Appropriations Act to address the impact of excessive freshwater, the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening and other impacts in 2019. Louisiana’s share is two-thirds of the total funding, the highest of the $88 million released. There is a remaining $12 million to be allocated at a later date.

 

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