Fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador were relieved to hear that direct federal support is on the way for the inshore fishery. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that $470 million in wage subsidies and grants will be available to fish harvesters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fish harvesters, crew members and processing plant workers sustain rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “Today’s announcement recognizes the vital role fisheries workers play in the economies of our coastal communities and the significant impact the pandemic has had on their livelihood.”
Since April, FFAW-Unifor has called on the federal government to provide extended Employment Insurance benefits to fish harvesters, access to wage subsidy programs, debt relief through non-repayable grants and the waiving or reimbursement of fees related to the commercial fishery. FFAW-Unifor members have sent more than 2,000 letters to federal Members of Parliament calling on the government to take action.
Today, Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement addressed three key issues for fish harvesters: a $252 million wage subsidy program that will provide coverage of 75% of losses up to $10,000 for fishing enterprise owners and crew, if they demonstrate a 25% decrease in income due to the pandemic; a $10,000 non-repayable grant to help license holders deal with fixed costs; and a commitment to support fish harvesters by making changes to the Employment Insurance system to ensure fish harvesters qualify based on income from previous years.
“This announcement was long overdue and is welcome news to fish harvesters who have been calling for income security, debt relief and access to affordable capital since this pandemic began,” said Sullivan. “Previous federal programs have fallen short when it comes to supporting fish harvesters. While these measures do not address every recommendation made by FFAW-Unifor, we are hopeful that further programs, particularly those that address concerns about Employment Insurance benefits, will be announced soon.”
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