PEI

New fishermen left out of COVID-19 support programs

The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association is trying to get federal support programs for fishermen changed so people new to the industry can qualify.

‘They’re good benefits, we just need to get them expanded’

P.E.I.'s lobster season was two weeks late starting. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is trying to get federal support programs for fishermen changed so people new to the industry can qualify.

The association says these new fishermen don't qualify for the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant program, the Canada Emergency Business Account or the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.  That's because they need to supply information about their previous work in the industry.

"There are several of the programs that require one or two years of previous financial information, which of course a new entrant would not possess," said Ian MacPherson, executive director of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association.

"They're good benefits, we just need to get them expanded to a little wider circle."

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association has been talking to government officials about the programs, says executive director Ian MacPherson. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

MacPherson said he doesn't believe the intent was to exclude these new people, but to gather evidence that they were currently part of the fishing industry. He said the issue has been raised with federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, and the association met with the department's deputy minister and staff a couple of weeks ago.

'Not unique to the fisheries'

Fishermen on P.E.I. have faced problems during the pandemic. The lobster season was two weeks late starting, and markets were weak when the season opened.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said new entrants in all sectors are facing particular challenges during the pandemic.

"This is not unique to the fisheries, and our Government is aware of the burden these women and men are shouldering," the email said.

"We have said from the beginning that our response will be ongoing. We will continue to look at how programs can be adjusted to support more people."

Any change made will need to be made soon, said MacPherson, because deadlines for applications to the programs are approaching.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Brian Higgins

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