Agriculture Dept. extends deadline for fishermen to apply for pandemic aid

By John McPhaul

Island Agriculture Secretary Ramón “Pirul” González Beiró announced Tuesday the extension of the deadline for thousands of fishermen in Puerto Rico to complete the online application and benefit from the federal incentives approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for pandemic recovery funds.

“Understanding the situations that fishermen have had [while trying] to access the online application for recovery funds, we have decided to extend the deadline until January 19 and allow more time for them to provide all the documentation requested by the federal agency,” González Beiró said in a written statement. “No duly certified fisherman should be left without applying; it is aid that is aimed at the sector, and can somehow [alleviate] the economic situations they have faced in recent months.”

The secretary said that each director of the department’s regional offices will assign his field agronomists to identify and contact all the fishing villages on the island to provide assistance to each and every fisherman, providing the application and affidavit in printed form for those who do not have computers or internet access. Likewise, the Agriculture Department’s field workers will be visiting the fishing villages and markets to help fishermen complete the application process.

“I have held several meetings with the Department’s staff to implement a Work Plan to streamline the process, since one of the sectors most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic has precisely been the fishermen, who have not been able to sell their products, which has resulted in a great negative economic impact,” González Beiró said.

Field workers will be visiting the fishing villages (known as villas pesqueras in Spanish) to provide first-hand help and to hold meetings with the presidents of the Fishermen’s Federation and the Puerto Rico Fishermen’s Congress.

Fishing industry participants who may be eligible for the financial incentive include certified fishermen, commercial fishing businesses, charter fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fish-related businesses, such as sea bait and marine equipment.

For more information, fishermen can call 787-273-2183.

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