Nfld. & Labrador

Fish harvesters happy to see federal money but still have questions

The union for fish harvesters in the province says it is happy to see money coming its way, but is tempering its optimism until it sees how the program rolls out.

Money will be paid out 5 days after applications are made

Federal relief is coming for fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador. (John Gaudi/CBC)

The union for fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador says it is happy to see money coming its way, but is tempering its optimism until it sees how the program rolls out.

Fish, Food & Allied Workers union president Keith Sullivan said the federal grants and benefits are a needed help during an unpredictable season.

"I think it's like a lot of other things we've seen and talked about this year," Sullivan told CBC's The Broadcast. "We want to know, certainly, all the details. It's pretty brief right now."

Harvesters will be eligible for a maximum of about $10,000 through either a grant or a benefit. Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said they are "one pool of funding with two streams."

People who own their own boats will be eligible for the grant, while workers who share in the profits of an enterprise will be eligible for the benefit. Both pay a maximum of slightly more than $10,000.

They'll have to show earnings from the 2018 or 2019 season and show they've suffered at least a 25 per cent loss during this pandemic season.

Fish, Food & Allied Workers-Unifor president Keith Sullivan says members have had complications with other government benefits during the pandemic. He hopes the newest benefit will go over smoothly. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Applications open online Aug. 24 and will be open for four weeks.

Jordan said the government made it a short application period so harvesters can get paid faster.

"Like all the programs we've had during the pandemic, we continue to assess them, see what we can do differently, how we can do better," she said. "So we know people have been waiting, so we figured four weeks was time for people to get the money they needed as quickly as possible."

Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says money for fish harvesters will come quickly, just five days after they apply. (CBC)

Once an application is made, Jordan said money will either be directly deposited or mailed out within five days.

Sullivan said there have been issues with other programs, like the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit and employment insurance since the pandemic began.

He said FFAW members still reach out almost daily with complaints that they're making less on EI than they would if they were on CERB.

"There appears to be some people who are stuck between the cracks," he said. "We continue to get questions about that every single day."

Sullivan is optimistic about the new benefit and grant for harvesters, but hopes the rollout doesn't cause complications.

"It's good news, anyway. It's progress," Sullivan said.

People will be able to apply for the benefit by visiting the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Harvesters have been hit hard by the pandemic. Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan explains aid packages to help. And what's going on with the cod fishery on the south coast? Inshore harvesters say it's unfair. 19:27

With files from The Broadcast

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