A draft letter that outlines a proposed disaster relief program for the Northeast groundfishery — featuring a $100 million permit and boat buyback program, and $87.5 million in various subsidies for those who stay in business — is circulating among members of the New England congressional delegation.
Under the program, the government would front the buyback money, which would be re-paid from charges on the revenue generated by the industry survivors, according to the draft letter. The government would also put up $10 million to cover the anticipated default rate in the program.
A copy of the draft letter was provided to the Times Wednesday by a staffer within the New England delegation. The letter is being circulated for ideas and signatures in time to put the House and Senate leadership and appropriations committees on notice of a desire to tack the groundfish disaster relief program onto a bill that was likely to make it to President Obama’s desk before the end of the 112th Congress. One likely carrier is a disaster assistance bill for farmers that passed the House in July. But many New England delegation members have not yet seen the package, a congressional staffer told the Times Wednesday.
It was more than eight months ago that Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine asked the Department of Commerce to declare a fisheries disaster.
The administration never has responded, creating widespread anger.