April 30, 2020

The increasingly-infamous $300 million

Dear Saving Seafood coalition members and friends:
As you can imagine, we have been getting a tremendous number of calls and emails about the $300 million in the CARES act that is targeted to fisheries. While there is no official information available, I’ve decided it is time to pass along what I’ve learned about the situation from numerous trusted sources in positions which should give them access to valid information.  So while everything is subject to change, I would not describe anything contained in this email to be “rumor”.
Individuals who have been consulted or briefed, tell me that NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) plans to enlist the interstate compact commissions (Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions) to distribute the funds to the respective states within their regions.  Each state would  develop their own plan as to who receives funds and how.  They would submit those plans to the interstate fishery commissions and the funds will be disbursed to the states. There would have to be another mechanism for Hawaii, which is not a member of the Pacific commission, and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, CNMI, etc.  Additionally, Florida would be a special case, since it is a member of both the Atlantic and Gulf commissions.
Multiple congressional offices have been told for weeks that the NOAA plan has been tied up in the Office of Management and Budget, which is technically part of the White House.   But recently multiple individuals with various government and quasi-government offices have reported that OMB has approved the plan, and the Agency is awaiting sign-off by Senate Appropriations, which would advise as to whether the agency/Administration plan meets Congressional intent.  If this is at all analogous to what generally happens in these situations, it is most likely a consultative process between the Agency, OMB, and Appropriations.  In these situations the ball is rarely in any one court.
If I had to guess, my conjecture would be that the Agency has completed a plan, OMB has signed off in principal and is likely close to sending final materials to Appropriations.
As you may have seen in our earlier Saving Seafood email, Congressional offices are getting frustrated. 
With any luck we might hear something late this week or early next week.
Robert B. Vanasse
Stove Boat LLC
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