WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA) today announced that more than $8.4 million in fishery disaster assistance would be going to Washington state Tribes and fishing communities. The funding, which Senators Cantwell and Murray originally worked to include in a 2018 spending bill, has been held up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The senators have pressed OMB to distribute the funding over the past two years, most recently writing a letter earlier this month to Acting OMB Director Russell Vought urging him to do so. In the letter, the senators highlighted the economic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic and response has taken on Washington state Tribes and fishing communities, and emphasized the need for the speedy distribution of federal fishery disaster assistance funding.
“Fisheries are a cornerstone of Washington’s maritime economy, and fishery disasters result in significant nutritional, cultural and financial burdens for Tribes,” said Senator Cantwell. “ I will keep working to improve the fisheries disaster process and develop mitigation strategies to lessen the impact of these disasters.”
“In these particularly uncertain times, I’m glad to see tribes and other fishing communities across our state finally get the federal assistance they need to recover, and I won’t stop fighting to make sure the federal government is doing its part to ensure Washingtonians who rely on fishing are getting the help they need to survive this crisis,” said Senator Murray.
The fishery disaster funds will go to Tribal and non-Tribal fishing communities across the state, including: $1,492,000 to the Lummi, Nooksack, Tulalip, Suquamish, Makah, Lower Elwha, Jamestown S’Klallam, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes; $3,856,000 to the Hoh, Quileute Tribe, Stillaguamish, Nooksack, Muckleshoot, Upper Skagit, and Suquamish Tribes; $1,654,000 to the Makah Tribe; $970,000 to the Quileute Tribe; and $440,000 to non-Tribal communities. The funding will be distributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission beginning May 1.
As the senators stressed in their letter, this delayed fishery assistance funding is desperately needed as the COVID-19 pandemic and response has led to fishery closures and reduced exports, adding to a growing economic crisis for the fishing industry across Washington state. Senators Cantwell and Murray successfully fought to include $300 million for tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and are working to include additional relief funding in future coronavirus relief legislation.