Congresswoman Elaine Luria led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging at least $10 million in relief for Virginia’s fisheries and seeking transparency regarding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s recently released funding allocation. NOAA, which oversees U.S. fisheries, is housed within the Department of Commerce.
“It is unacceptable that NOAA’s allocation decision does not reflect the dramatic losses Virginia watermen have faced as a result of this pandemic and does not accurately calculate the contribution of Virginia’s fisheries industries to the national seafood industry,” said Congresswoman Luria. “I urge NOAA to immediately revise its allocation formula to provide Virginia at least $10 million in CARES Act fisheries funding.”
In Section 12005 of the CARES Act, the Department of Commerce was directed to distribute $300 million to fishery industry businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After a delay of more than a month, NOAA released its plan for distributing these funds last week. Under this plan, Virginia will only receive approximately $4.5 million, or 1.5% of the total allocation, which significantly undervalues Virginia’s contribution to the national seafood industry because Virginia’s fisheries industries account for 7.4% of the nation’s total aquaculture sales. NOAA’s current allocation formula means that Virginia watermen will receive far less per dollar of aquaculture sales and commercial fishery landings and less per seafood processing and wholesale worker than individuals in other states.
Congresswoman Luria was joined by her Virginia delegation colleagues Representatives Rob Wittman (VA-01), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Don McEachin (VA-04), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11) in calling for a more equitable allocation of funding to Virginia’s fisheries.