Alaska seafood processors to receive pandemic response relief

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 3:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development will distribute $30.6 million to Alaska’s seafood and shellfish processing sector as part of a grant program.

With this funding, grants will be issued to owners of seafood processing facilities and boats to reimburse them for costs of “preparing for, preventing exposure to, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release from the department.

The program is set in place to provide critical assistance to this industry that is vital to Alaska’s economy and food security network. To operate in 2020 and 2021, some of the mitigation measures included 14-day quarantines for incoming workers. That included housing, meals, standard pay, chartered flights, and continuous COVID-19 testing. From all the extra measures, Commissioner Julie Sande said it is estimated that seafood processors throughout Alaska have accrued $100 million in additional costs.

Funding from this program came from the USDA Agriculture Service, which made $50 million available nationwide. Alaska was allocated just over $30 million based off of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration landings data. Alaska provides more than 60% of the seafood supply nationwide, Sande said.

“I think when you consider the contributions that these processors are making both for our state, but also for the nation, it’s very appropriate,” Sande said. “... In addition to the $6 billion that seafood processors are contributing to the Alaska economy of course.”

According to officials at the department, this grant is significant because a lot of seafood processors did not qualify for other COVID-19 grants because they may have been too large or didn’t see a decrease in revenue during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, looking back at all of the grant funding that went out nationwide, you know, we can see ... I think at least $30 billion went directly to ranchers but for some reason Alaska seafood or wild seafood processors and folks were just left out,” added Sande.

Eligible seafood processors have a 30-day window to apply, and award amounts will be determined after all applications have been received and evaluated based on need. More information on the grant program is available on the department’s website.

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