Commercial fishing crews now eligible for federal COVID loans
Like almost every corner of the economy, commercial fishermen have had to adapt to the pandemic as Alaska heads into its busy salmon season. However, unlike other sectors of the economy, commercial fishermen have not been eligible for all available federal aid.
Until this week, a large portion of fishermen’s payroll was not eligible for help with the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP. This is because many of them pay their teammates with 1099s, as independent contractors. Until yesterday, they could not use it to request the PPP. United Fishermen of Alaska Executive Director Frances Leach said this presented significant challenges for the fleet.
“We pushed our delegation as well as the delegation to work with the president and other lawmakers to accept the 1099s, and it took them so long to do so,” she said. “So they can finally include 1,099 payments in their payroll calculations, which will eventually allow them to qualify for a larger loan.”
The US Department of the Treasury announced a rule that changed that, making those 1,099 earnings eligible for PPP. But there is another hurdle: the deadline is June 30. It is five days after the announcement, including two weekend days, when credit institutions are generally not open. Leach said it was a tight schedule, but the Alaska Congressional delegation told them it likely wouldn’t be extended as it would require federal legislation.
“The biggest sticking point for us is that the commercial fishermen are fishing during this time, so a lot of them maybe haven’t even heard of this new program, which makes it really difficult,” she declared. “We’ve done our best to keep the fleet informed, but a lot of them are out of line.”
Not all institutions work with these loans anymore either. Leach suggested that anglers wishing to apply take a look at the Small Business Administration website at sba.gov for a list of financial institutions that can still provide PPP loans.
Commercial fishing in Upper Cook Inlet started this week in the Central District. The central district drift fishery opened first, followed by net fishermen from the Kasilof region.
To date, anglers across Upper Cook Inlet have caught 43,381 salmon. Of these, 41,181 are sockeye salmon and 1,877 are kings. According to the Upper Cook Inlet management plans, the set nets in the Kenai area will not come into service until later.
The main Kenai River sockeye sonar does not turn on until July 1, but the Kasilof River sockeye sonar had counted about 49,360 sockeye as of Thursday. This is ahead of last year and on track for an escapement projection of about 298,000 sockeye. The drifting gillnets and set nets in the Kasilof section will be open from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, according to the most recent commercial fishery announcement.
Contact Elizabeth Earl at [email protected]