Photo by Pete Worch

Md. Provides $9 Million and Counting in COVID Relief to Watermen and Farmers

The state of Maryland has now handed out more than $9 million to local producers—like farmers and watermen—hit hard by the pandemic. And there are still nearly two months left to apply for funds.

The funding is part of the more than $600 million in emergency economic relief the state has announced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) earmarked  $3 million for direct payments to seafood industry businesses, including commercial, for-hire, aquaculture, and seafood processing operations whose 2020 revenue has suffered a loss of greater than 35% due to COVID-19. The program also grants $1 million to fund seafood marketing and business support for individuals in the seafood industry.

The program began Nov. 4, and the seafood industry responded. As of the end of December, the state had received more than 440 applications for relief, and about 340 have already been approved. $330,000 has been paid out. DNR says it will continue outreach until the application deadline of Feb. 28.

Maryland has already granted nearly $5 million to agriculture businesses in the state, through its Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Fund. Contract poultry growers receive direct payments at a rate of $1,000 per poultry house, with additional funds for growers whose flocks were depopulated because of COVID-19 disruptions. Maryland farmers from the grain, livestock, dairy, and produce industries who received federal assistance were also given 15 percent bonus payments by the state.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented hardship for so many, and while Maryland’s farmers and producers are certainly no exception, they have continued to work hard every single day to support our food supply chain,” says Governor Larry Hogan. “We remain strongly committed to helping Maryland’s agricultural community as we weather this storm together.”

State leaders acknowledge that the relief may only be a short-term fix for businesses that took a big hit. DNR says once the first round of seafood industry relief is up Feb. 28, additional money will be paid out to grantees in the spring.

“This funding provides much needed relief to help eligible individuals in the seafood industry get through these tough market conditions,” DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said.

-Meg Walburn Viviano