WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) announced the COVID-19 relief package that passed Congress and was signed into law included $200 million for logging and log hauling businesses that have been seriously impacted by the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, according to a news release.
Senator Collins and Congressman Golden introduced and Senator Angus King (I-ME) and Congresswoman Pingree (ME-01) co-sponsored logger relief legislation earlier this year, and Senator Collins championed the funding in the final agreement.
The logging industry has experienced a steep decline in demand for wood fiber since the coronavirus pandemic began, leading to an estimated 20 percent or more drop in the timber harvest this year.
The $200 million in relief funding will go to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that have, because of the COVID–19 pandemic, experienced a loss of 10 percent or more in gross revenue during the period beginning on January 1, 2020, and ending on December 1, 2020, compared to the same period last year. As a co-leader of the bipartisan, bicameral group that provided the framework for the COVID-19 relief negotiations, Senator Collins pushed for the inclusion of the funding in the final package.
The program is modeled after legislation Senator Collins and Congressman Golden introduced and Senator King and Congresswoman co-sponsored earlier this year to establish a new program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide direct payments to timber harvesting and hauling businesses. It is similar to the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which has been providing direct relief to growers and producers experiencing dramatic drops in prices and overall business activity due to the pandemic.
Maine’s logging industry is a linchpin of the state’s economy, generating an estimated $619 million in economic output, and providing $342 million in income to around 9,000 Mainers, most of whom live in rural communities.
“Throughout Maine’s history, our forest products industry has supported good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and strengthened rural communities,” said Senator Collins. “This industry is built on the backs of our dedicated loggers, who sustainably harvest and haul one of Maine’s most precious resources. Loggers were already facing significant headwinds due to a changing 21st century economy and unfair trade practices, as well as the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay and the shutdown of the paper machine at Sappi in Westbrook. COVID-19 has only compounded these challenges. Maine’s family logging and log hauling businesses need our support. That’s why I worked to secure $200 million in the COVID-19 emergency relief package to provide critical financial assistance to the skilled professionals who work in this industry to help them get through this difficult period.”
“Between COVID-19 and the Jay Mill explosion, many loggers and truck drivers are seeing work slow down as markets for their products decline. Maine loggers don’t want a handout, but they deserve the same support during tough times that we have already provided for farmers and fishermen,” said Congressman Golden. “Senator Collins and I have worked together to introduce new legislation to provide targeted relief for loggers and log haulers, and we’ve successfully included it in the COVID-19 package that passed Congress today. Once this bill is law, we’ll keep working together to make sure these funds get to Maine loggers and truckers.”
“For generations, Maine’s forest products industry has supported jobs and communities, especially in our state’s rural regions,” said Senator King. “Thanks to our state’s abundant forests and our world-class workforce, Maine has been a global leader in this important industry. The sector has faced hard times, and weathered them – but the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily curbed market demand for forest products, and have contributed to the immense challenges facing this industry. For the sake of our logging industry, and all the Maine people who rely on it, I am proud to have worked with my colleague Senator Collins on the inclusion of $200 million in this aid package. This industry is essential to communities across our state, and I will continue to stand behind its workers in the challenging days ahead.”
“Maine’s forests are a vital part of our way of life and our economy, supporting more than 34,000 jobs and serving as the backbone of our rural communities. That’s why I’ve advocated for meaningful relief for the logging industry from the very beginning of this economic crisis. This funding will help to support the forest products industry as they weather this storm,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “I know this package doesn’t solve all of the pressure this industry is facing, and while it certainly doesn’t go far enough to support Maine families who are struggling during this crisis, I’m proud that this bill includes targeted funding for the forest products industry as they report historic reductions in their markets.”
“The significance of this announcement for timber harvesters and haulers in the United States cannot be overstated,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said. “At no prior time in our nation’s history have loggers been offered formal support and relief from our nation’s government, and we especially want to thank U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Representative Jared Golden for leading the effort to secure this aid on behalf of the hard-working small family businesses in the industry here in Maine, and Senator Angus King and U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree for joining that effort. Loggers and truckers need the same help and recognition farmers and fishermen have received since the pandemic began, now at long last they are getting it.”