Fishers now qualify for aid in federal loan program

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — Fishers are now able to count their crew as part of their employee payroll to qualify for federal loans intended to help businesses following economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal rule change was published Thursday after captains discovered crew members, who typically receive pay in shares of the catch, could not be included in the first federal relief aid program, The Seattle Times reported.

Fishers have been contending with poor markets as restaurants closed or reduced service to limit the spread of COVID-19.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Seafood Harvesters of America President Robert Dooley and Executive Director Leigh Habegger wrote a letter in May to U.S. senators to request support for the rule change arguing that the loan is a critical lifeline for the industry.

“We believe the purpose and intent of the Paycheck Protection Program is to help protect small businesses, including commercial fishing businesses. But as it stands now, that does not hold true and fishing businesses and crew members are unable to effectively access full PPP benefits,” the letter said.

Habegger said Thursday that she hopes eligible fishers will take advantage of the program before a June 30 deadline for applications.

The Paycheck Protection Program loans may be forgiven if certain conditions are met, including spending a large portion of the money to retain employees.

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