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Ottawa announces income supports and grants for fish harvesters

Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 3:54 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced up to $469 million in new measures to assist fish harvesters who are economically hurt in the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but who can’t access other federal financial support measures.

On May 14 the prime minister announced the launch of a program titled the Fish Harvester Benefit, which he valued at up to $267.6 million. The program will provide income support for fishing seasons in 2020 to eligible self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons crew who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

Support will be provided to those who experience fishing income declines of greater than 25 per cent in the 2020 tax year, compared with a reference period to be identified later, a government press release explains. “This measure covers 75 per cent of fishing income losses beyond a 25-per-cent-income-decline threshold, up to a maximum individual entitlement equivalent to what is provided under the CEWS ($847 per week for up to 12 weeks).”

The prime minister also announced the launch of the Fish Harvester Grant, a program said to be worth up to $201.8 million, to provide grants to help fish harvesters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account “or equivalent measures.”

The aim of the grant program is to give fish harvesters some money for non-deferrable business costs. The program would provide non-repayable support of up to $10,000 to self-employed fish harvesters with a valid fishing licence. The size of the non-repayable support will vary depending on the level of the fish harvesters’ historic revenue, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This all builds on the investments we’ve made for fish and seafood processors, and for farmers and aquacultures fisheries,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa May 14.

The government said the announcement builds on the $62.5-million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund announced last month to assist the fish and seafood processing sectors.

“We’re also launching a $100-million agriculture and food business solutions fund through Farm Credit Canada,” said the prime minister “This is yet another option to help agrifood companies facing unexpected financial strain.”

Trudeau also committed his government to proposing measures or changes to employment insurance to allow self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons to access EI benefits on the basis of insurable earnings from previous seasons (winter and summer claims).

The government pledged more details about the measures will follow “soon.”

On May 13, the federal government also provided additional information about the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which enables federal regional development agencies to provide up to $962 million of additional support to businesses and communities economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that cannot access existing measures. The agencies are tasked with assisting workers and businesses in sectors that are key to the country’s six regions and local economies.