Federal Government Announces New Support for Fish Harvesters

On May 14, 2020, the Federal Government announced up to $469.4 million in new measures to support Canadian fish harvesters who are economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but do not otherwise qualify for federal support.

This program builds upon the previously announced $62.5 million Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund, aimed at providing assistance to Canada’s fish and seafood processing sector.

The Federal Government will be providing support in three key initiatives.

1. Fish Harvester Benefit

The Federal Government will launch the Fish Harvester Benefit, in an amount up to $267.7 million, to provide income support to eligible self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons crew who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”). Eligibility information for CEWS can be found in our blog post here. Applicants will be eligible for the Fish Harvester Benefit if their income in the 2020 tax year declined at least 25%, compared to a specified reference period.

The Fish Harvester Benefit will cover 75% of fishing income losses beyond the threshold 25% income loss, up to $847 per week, for up to 12 weeks. This is the same maximum entitlement as exists under the CEWS program.

2. Fish Harvester Grant

The Federal Government will also launch the Fish Harvester Grant, worth up to $201.8 million, to provide grants to fish harvesters who are otherwise ineligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account, or equivalent measures. The Fish Harvester Grant will provide up to $10,000 in non-repayable support to self-employed fish harvesters with a valid fishing licence. The size of the grant will vary, depending on the fish harvester’s historic income.

3. Updates to Employment Insurance

Finally, the Federal Government will propose changes to Employment Insurance (“EI”) to allow self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons crew access to EI benefits, based on insurable earnings from the previous season.

Additional details on the above measures will be made available soon. Please check back here for updates. In the interim, please do not hesitate to reach out to our MLT Aikins Food and Agribusiness team should you require help in addressing, responding to, or managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business – we have the extensive experience to provide comprehensive assistance, and would be pleased to work with your organization.

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