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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2010
Contact: Christina Stephens, christina.stephens@la.gov

State Offers Grants, Extends Deadline to Apply for $17.4 Million Fisheries Recovery Program
Funds Benefit Commercial Fishermen, Wholesale Dealers Affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

BATON ROUGE, La. - Commercial fishermen and wholesale dealers whose businesses were affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike can now apply for fully-funded grants instead of repayable loans through a $17.4 million Fisheries Recovery Program, the Louisiana Recovery Authority and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced today. The new program combines two previous efforts to separately assist commercial fishermen and wholesale dealer brokers and changes awards to one-time grants rather than a repayable 1.5 percent loan.

Application deadlines have been extended into June and July. Industry members who were licensed in 2008 as commercial fishermen, vessel owners or wholesale dealer brokers and who have a 2010 license will be mailed information about the program.

State officials decided to change the program after holding a series of outreach meetings with fishermen in February, as well as continuing dialogue. Even with a low percentage rate and with loan proceeds returning to the industry through a revolving loan fund, industry leaders expressed concern about business owners' capacity to incur additional debt in light of the economic challenges faced in recovering from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

"Our seafood industry is a vital part of Louisiana's economy, and we want to provide the most effective means possible to help these business owners recover from the losses they suffered after the 2008 storms," said Robin Keegan, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority and the state Office of Community Development. "The changes to the program come from listening to the needs of the fishermen and assessing how we can best support them."

"Through the partnerships we have developed with our state partners and industry representatives alike, LDWF is able to understand the challenges still facing our fishing communities like never before," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "Fishing in Louisiana is not just a job but a way of life. I am pleased we can make these grants available to the industry that means so much to the traditions of our state."

Commercial fishermen who have already applied for the original program do not need to reapply; all others have until Wednesday, June 30 to apply. Vessel owners also have until June 30 to apply to the new program, while wholesale dealers have until Thursday, July 15.

The program is being administered by the LRA and LDWF in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana State University and Louisiana SeaGrant.

Questions about the application process can be directed to the state's call line at 1-866-295-0081.

Businesses are required to submit financial documents and show a tangible loss or decline in gross receipts and sales as a result of the 2008 storms. Commercial fishermen and vessel owners must show a minimum loss of $5,000, while wholesale dealers must employ at least four people and have suffered at least $15,000 in damages.

The funding for this program is part of a $1 billion pool of disaster recovery Community Development Block Grant funds awarded to Louisiana by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for damages inflicted by hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The LRA dedicated a total of $32.7 million dollars to fisheries recovery programs for fishermen.

Created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the coordinating and planning body leading the most extensive rebuilding effort in American history. The central point for hurricane recovery in Louisiana, the LRA works closely with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and partners with state and federal agencies to oversee more than $20 billion worth of programs, speed the pace of rebuilding, remove hurdles and red tape and ensure that Louisiana recovers safer and stronger than before.

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