Federal Agriculture Department officials are accepting applications from U.S. states through Nov. 23 for the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety (SPRS) block grant program, which is expected to award about $50 million in assistance early in 2022.
Distribution of funds to seafood industry recipients will depend on each state’s plan, a USDA spokesperson said. USDA has allocated funding to certain states and territories based on a formula that considers economic activity as demonstrated through commercial fisheries landings, as detailed in the request for applications.
The program is funded through pandemic assistance funds provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Once USDA has awarded the funds, state agencies will provide those funds to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels that have applied directly to their state agency.
Seafood processors interested in receiving a grant are advised to contact their state agency directly for further information.
The Agriculture Department also said that it plans to open an application period in early October for the $650 million Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) grant program, to provide assistance to small businesses in certain commodity areas, including shellfish farming, finfish farming and aquaculture and related distributors and farmers markets, as well as meat and other processors. These funds also were provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
The grants are for businesses significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that received insufficient federal support to address costs incurred to keep workers safe and help keep the U.S. food supply intact during the crisis.
USDA officials said they’ve already received reports of fraud attempts regarding the PRS grant program, and advised that USDA does not call, text or email grant applicants to request personal or financial information, and that no legitimate federal employee would ever call to say someone has qualified or been approved for a grant not applied for. Complaints about suspected fraud may be filed online with the Federal Trade Commission or call toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
Funds distributed under both programs may be used to cover a range of issues, ranging from workplace safety measures and retrofitting facilities to maximize open-air activities; worker housing costs incurred to maintain social distancing; and unreimbursed costs associated with providing or enabling vaccinations, testing or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including paid leave.