WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help Rhode Island fishermen and seafood processors weather economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will grant the Ocean State $371,412 through the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program (SPRS). Administered at the local level by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), this federal funding provides COVID-19 relief for local seafood processors and processing facilities.
While the economy continues to gain strength after the Biden Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts, USDA is working with agricultural, seafood, and food businesses to ensure they have the resources and tools to thrive.
“Rhode Island’s seafood industry is important to our economy and I am committed to ensuring it remains competitive. COVID-19 has stressed supply chains and industries. This federal funding will help seafood processors overcome challenges caused by the pandemic, protect their workers, and ensure safety,” said Senator Reed, who helped include $50 million for SPRS in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. “This is a smart investment in bolstering U.S. seafood supply chains and helping seafood workers and the industry as a whole get back on its feet.”
“The Ocean State’s seafood industry was hit hard early in the pandemic and continues to deal with lingering challenges,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This federal funding will provide additional support to help hardworking local fishermen keep delivering some of the world’s best seafood for Rhode Islanders to enjoy.”
“From bolstering our tourism industry to supplying our locally-owned restaurants, Rhode Island’s world-class seafood is integral to so many sectors of our economy,” said Rep. Langevin. “The COVID-19 pandemic has put immense pressure on the American seafood supply chain, and these federal funds will help ensure Rhode Island’s seafood processors have the resources to continue safely and efficiently providing our state with seafood as delicious as our reputation suggests.”
“Our seafood industry has always been the pride of the Ocean State – bringing economic activity and thousands of jobs to Rhode Island,” said Congressman Cicilline. “Over the last two years, as we’ve seen across our economy, the COVID pandemic brought significant challenges to the industry. This investment by USDA will help provide the support Rhode Island’s seafood processers and their workers need as they continue to recover from the public health crisis.”
The federal funds, which will be distributed by DEM, may be used by seafood processors to cover activities associated with:
- Workplace Safety Measures – including personal protective equipment, sanitizer, hand washing stations, air filters, thermometers, cleaning supplies, or similar items.
- Market Pivots – such as transition to virtual/online sales costs (online platform development and fees, online marketing, credit card processing fees), supplies, new signage.
- Retrofitting Facilities – for worker and consumer safety (retrofitting harvester vessels for onboard vessel processing to maximize open-air activities, plexiglass, walk up windows, heat lamps, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables, chairs).
- Transportation – additional transportation costs incurred to maintain social distancing.
- Worker Housing – additional worker housing costs incurred to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.
- Medical – unreimbursed costs associated with providing or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including any paid leave.
Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642
Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), 401-453-5294
Matt Fidel (Langevin), (202) 631-1010
Jennifer Bell (Cicilline), (202) 365-0827