RALEIGH — The first round of checks were mailed Friday to North Carolina commercial fishermen hit hard by Hurricane Florence, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced Friday.
The funds are from the $11.6 million Hurricane Florence Commercial Fishing Assistance Program designed to help make up for losses to the state’s nearly billion-dollar commercial fishing industry due to the storm, according to the governor’s office.
“Hurricane Florence dealt a serious blow to North Carolina’s fishing industry last fall, disrupting fishing and destroying boats and gear for fishermen all along our coast,” Cooper said in a statement. “Getting these funds directly into the hands of commercial fisherman will be a big help as they and their families and communities work to recover.”
Distribution of the money is based on reported commercial fishing landings in September, October and November 2018 as compared to the same months in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The state collects records of all marine fish and shellfish sold at North Carolina docks.
Of the 1,800 commercial fishermen the Division of Marine Fisheries sent certified letters informing them of their eligibility for assistance, about 850 commercial fishermen participated. Those with estimated losses based on landings will receive a check.
The state Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City sent out Friday 644 checks totaling $3,216,700 to commercial fishermen to help buffer income losses from September harvest reductions because of Hurricane Florence, as documented by state harvest records. Some checks for September losses were still being processed because of missing information but were to be mailed as soon as possible.
The division is to contact commercial fishermen eligible to participate in the program based on October and November landings.
The $11.6 million program is part of a package of Hurricane Florence relief efforts Cooper signed into law on Dec. 3, 2018.
The letters will be to those residents that held a valid, current Standard or Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License or a Shellfish License for North Carolina residents without a Standard Commercial Fishing License, and who suffered losses in fishing income during October and November 2018, as documented by state records.
As a result of the storm, Cooper obtained a federal disaster declaration for the state’s marine fishing industry, which can assist with additional relief for commercial fishing families struggling to make a living while repairing their businesses.