Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) has received a $3 million distribution of pandemic relief funds, ensuring that the public-private partnership between the State of Alaska and Alaska’s seafood industry can continue its robust worldwide marketing effort.
“Without that money we would have had to cut back in definite areas through the coming fiscal year,” said Jack Schultheis, board chairman of ASMI and general manager of Kwik-Pac Fisheries, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association.
Schultheis said that the governor’s office had told ASMI back in February or March that it would receive a distribution from federal CARES Act funds allocating to the states to help it deal with the tremendous financial costs of the global coronavirus pandemic, but it wasn’t until June 25 that Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the $3 million grant for ASMI to mitigate unanticipated COVID-19 costs, including meeting COVID-19 safety precautions.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was authorized by Congress in 2020 to address economic impacts of and otherwise respond to the pandemic outbreak nationwide. The $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill was passed by the 116th Congress.
CARES Act funding authorized by the Alaska Legislature in 2020 was set to expire at the end of June 2021.
“Alaska’s seafood industry is a strong pillar of our economy, and my administration is committed to supporting ASMI’s urgent and substantial need following unplanned industry wide COVID-19 costs,” Dunleavy said. “Our fleets have weathered the storm of COVID; now it’s time to keep delivering a piece of Alaska on a dish around the globe.”
“Our revenue is based off how much the state gets from the state’s fisheries business tax,” Schultheis explained. “When the value of the fish is down, we get less money.”
Seafood processors operating in Alaska are spending millions of dollars to ensure the safety of their workers and the communities they work in to stem the spread of the virus. When the pandemic hit Alaska in 2020, this included testing of out-of-state workers before they arrived in Alaska, quarantining them in hotels and additional testing before sending them to work in rural canneries, and transporting them out of these remote areas if they tested positive.
Despite all efforts several processing facilities, from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor had to shut down at times during the busy harvest seasons when some workers tested positive, delaying the processing of valuable seafood taxed by the state, with resulting revenue to ASMI.
Schultheis said the pandemic also cut back on ASMI’s operating costs however, due to people working remotely rather than in offices and travel being curtailed.
Now with the CARES Act funds, ASMI is fully funded again and in some cases will be able to increase some marketing efforts.
Jeremy Woodrow, executive director of ASMI, thanked Dunleavy for recognizing the importance of Alaska’s seafood to the state economy.
“The CARES funding to ASMI is critical to cover the additional expenses incurred when the market focus had to shift, literally overnight, due to the effects and response to COVID-19 in order to retain the value of Alaska’s global brand,” Woodrow said. “This grant will help preserve Alaska seafood’s strong and highly sought-after position in the world marketplace.”