June 18, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented situation for fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador that rivals the cod moratorium. Season delays, production slowdowns and rock-bottom prices have left thousands in an economic crisis. In May, the federal government announced measures that would relieve some of this burden from harvesters but after more than a month, harvesters are still without any details on these critical programs. FFAW-Unifor is calling on the federal government to urgently provide details on the support programs that were committed to harvesters.
On May 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made two commitments to fish harvesters. First, that enterprise owners would be eligible for a $10,000 non repayable grant if they are unable to apply for the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program should they experience a 25% drop in income from last year. Second, Prime Minister Trudeau promised that Employment Insurance (EI) rules would be changed for 2020 to allow for 2019 earnings to be used for fishing EI claims. No further details or timelines have been announced for these programs since the Prime Minister’s press conference in mid-May.
“Many fish harvesters have already experienced significant drops in their 2020 income. Despite government promises, EI benefits have not been adjusted based on last year’s earnings and they have been given no indication of how or when these changes will be implemented,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “Harvesters are also unable to access the promised grant, nor have they been able to apply for the CEBA program,” he adds.
“While we understand that changes to Employment Insurance and the roll-out of these programs won’t happen overnight, the challenges facing our industry are impacting harvesters today and they can’t wait any longer to know how these programs will help them and their families,” Sullivan continues.
The fishery is a $1 billion industry for Newfoundland and Labrador and is what sustains rural communities. The effects of this pandemic have the potential to bankrupt enterprise owners and is leaving families wondering if they will have income through the winter.
“Short-term support through this pandemic is critical to ensuring that our communities are not left behind when this is over. Harvesters and their families need access to these programs now,” concludes Sullivan.
For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at [email protected] or 709-743-4445.