All of that is good, and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk is right to note the effort by our federal lawmakers to bring these needed disaster relief dollars home. But if there is a cloud, it is this: The bill does not address a specific mechanism for disbursing the $75 million — other than that the funds will go to the Department of Commerce.
The expectation, rightfully raised by Tierney and others, is that Commerce and therefore NOAA work with fishing communities, the states and local residents on the appropriate manner for allotting the funds. And he assures all that he’s committed to doing that.
But the important thing to remember is this: This is not aid for cities and towns to steer into fishery and harbor “transition” projects. It is not money for NOAA to prop up some of its programs, cooperative research or otherwise.
It’s money that must be steered, as directly as possible, to fishermen — fishermen who’ve been denied the opportunity to make a living by the excessive regulations of their own government, fishermen who’ve been forced into selling their boats or even their homes as they’ve been pushed to the brink of financial ruin. And the best means of doing that is through states’ divisions of marine fisheries, which work with individual permit holders on a regular basis.
It is not Commerce or any other bureaucracy that needs this money to revive New England’s faltering waterfront economies. It is the fishermen themselves, who — with even fractions of this aid — can hopefully start on the road to recovery, returning to the water, rehiring unemployed crew workers, and stimulating waterfront service businesses. And it is they who deserve the chance to once again rebuild their own independent businesses and their lives while still daring to look to the future.
Let’s hope this bill gains the approvals it needs today — and that these checks are headed this way soon.