Bill calls for grant funding for projects to bolster US coastal, fishing communities

By Steve Bittenbender July 1, 2020

U.S. Representatives Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Florida) and Don Young (R-Alaska) filed a bill in Congress on Friday, 26 June, that calls for USD 3 billion (EUR 2.67 billion) in grants funding designed to restore the country’s coastal ecosystems, including fisheries.

The goal behind H.R. 7387, titled the “Shovel-Ready Restoration Grants for Coastlines and Fisheries Act of 2020,” is to fund resilience-building projects that could help coastal communities regain jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

It looks to expand a program born from the 2009 Recovery Act, which at the time provided USD 167 million (EUR 148.6 million) in funding to NOAA for resilience projects that created jobs in coastal regions. According to a news release from Mucarsel-Powell, the agency received more than USD 3 billion in requests for funding, and approved projects ended up creating 17 jobs for every USD 1 million (EUR 889,669) spent.

“As we work to mend the damage to our economy done by this pandemic, we must start with shovel-ready projects that strengthen our fishing industry and coastal economy in South Florida. This bill will invest in our fragile coastal ecosystems, help mitigate the effects of sea level rise, create thousands of good-paying jobs that span a wide range of skill levels and trades, support our fishermen, and strengthen our local economies,” Mucarsel-Powell said.

The bill comes at a time when the fishing community has called for increased funding for their communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects selected for funding could begin within three months of the grant award date.

The projects may also provide an opportunity for fishermen to earn money, either for their labor or use of their boats.

“Alaskans know how important the ocean is to our fishing industry and our broader economy,” Young said. “Removing marine debris, bolstering ecological infrastructure, and increasing coastal resiliency will be critical to protecting our coastal communities.

On Monday, 29 June, the bill earned an endorsement from the National Audubon Society. In a statement, Vice President for Coastal Conservation Karen Hyun said the bipartisan bill is a “win-win-win” and lead to investments that create habitats for birds and wildlife.

“[T]hey will also create jobs in fisheries- and tourism-dependent communities that have been devastated by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will protect coastal communities from sea-level rise and stronger, more frequent storms,” she said.