On Thursday, U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon hosted her fifth virtual town hall and called for increased federal action to support Maine’s lobster industry during the coronavirus crisis.
During the town hall, Gideon was joined by Genevieve McDonald, State Representative for House District 134, and a lobster boat captain, to discuss the specific challenges lobstermen and women are facing due to the drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic and how the federal government can better support the industry right now.
“The Maine lobster industry is the backbone of so many communities in our state, and the federal government needs to step up and work to keep lobstermen and women afloat through this crisis,” said U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon, in a news release. “This key Maine industry needs decisive action from our leaders, including expediting the release of CARES Act funding, expanding the Paycheck Protection Program, providing additional funding through state and local governments, and establishing federal procurement programs for American seafood products.”
“There’s very limited pools of money for lobstermen to pull from. The market has essentially collapsed,” said lobster boat captain and State Representative Genevieve McDonald. “The best way to support the industry right now is to continue purchasing seafood, but we need more federal assistance to get through this crisis.”
In the face of a rapid decline in demand for seafood products and unprecedented low prices due to the coronavirus pandemic, commercial lobstermen and fishermen have resorted to direct marketing tactics and online Facebook groups to sell their catch.
During the town hall, Gideon called for targeted relief for Maine’s lobster industry and outlined specific steps the federal government should take to combat the serious economic challenges the industries are facing. Gideon is calling on the federal government to:
Expedite the release of $300 million in CARES Act funding for commercial and charter fisheries.
Allocate CARES Act funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation and the disaster funds for farmers specifically for lobster industry relief.
Expand the Payroll Protection Program by increasing its funding and allowing the lobster industry to cover a bigger portion of operating costs so that more Maine small businesses can get the help they need.
Appropriate funding for state and city government grants to provide targeted economic relief to workers and small businesses, including the lobster industry in Maine.
Establish federal procurement programs specifically for U.S. seafood products.
Ensure there is robust funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service in the regular appropriations process to ensure that the global pandemic does not compromise management of our nation’s fisheries.
Gideon has hosted five virtual town halls in as many weeks to hear from Mainers across the state and answer their questions about her candidacy and vision for the state. She has also held numerous conversations with Mainers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, including BIW workers and small business owners. Gideon will continue to host virtual events in the coming weeks to continue listening to and hearing from Mainers about concerns they have during this crisis and beyond.