WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help Rhode Island fishermen and seafood processors weather economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will grant the Ocean State $371,412 through the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program (SPRS).  Administered at the local level by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), this federal funding provides COVID-19 relief funding for local seafood processors and processing facilities.

While the economy continues to gain strength after the Biden Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts, USDA is working with agricultural, seafood, and food businesses to ensure they have the resources and tools to thrive. 

“Rhode Island’s seafood industry is important to our economy and I am committed to ensuring it remains competitive.  COVID has stressed supply chains and industries.  This federal funding will help seafood processors overcome challenges caused by the pandemic, protect their workers, and ensure safety,” said Senator Reed, who helped include $50 million for SPRS in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. “This is a smart investment in bolstering U.S. seafood supply chains and helping seafood workers and the industry as a whole get back on its feet.”

“The Ocean State’s seafood industry was hit hard early in the pandemic and continues to deal with lingering challenges,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “This federal funding will provide additional support to help hardworking local fishermen keep delivering some of the world’s best seafood for Rhode Islanders to enjoy.”

The federal funds, which will be distributed locally by DEM, may be used by seafood processors to cover activities associated with:

  • Workplace Safety Measures - including personal protective equipment, sanitizer, hand washing stations, air filters, thermometers, cleaning supplies, or similar items.
  • Market Pivots - such as transition to virtual/online sales costs (online platform development and fees, online marketing, credit card processing fees), supplies, new signage.
  • Retrofitting Facilities - for worker and consumer safety (retrofitting harvester vessels for onboard vessel processing to maximize open-air activities, plexiglass, walk up windows, heat lamps, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables, chairs).
  • Transportation - additional transportation costs incurred to maintain social distancing.
  • Worker Housing - additional worker housing costs incurred to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.
  • Medical - unreimbursed costs associated with providing or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including any paid leave.