Fishermen and crew will benefit from city's recovery grant program

Oct 28, 2020

Many fishermen who home-port in Homer will benefit from city's recovery grant program.
Credit City of Homer

The Homer City Council on Monday night passed its latest emergency recovery grant program, this one aimed at fishermen, predictably named “FERG.” It’s stocked with $1.3 million in federal CARES Act money funneled to the city through the state of Alaska in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The issue had broad support from former fishermen like Jim Herbert.
“But I think you folks all realize that Homer is the base of operations for many commercial fishing businesses and their crews. Annually they make significant contributions to the local economy. I believe grants issued under such a program would not just sit under someone's mattresses. Only specific audit-able expenditures would likely be allowed. And further, these funds are most likely to circulate through the Homer economy. I consider this program and funding a good use of the CARES Act funding, and urge you to support this ordinance.”
Marine tradesman Aaron Fleenor also voiced his support.
“I'm here on behalf of Homer Marine Trades Association as the vice president,” Fleenor said. “And we have full support for this program as it would be our local fishermen and their crews and as well as stimulate a local economy.”
Mayor Ken Castner explained how the members for this class of beneficiaries were determined.
“So we needed to find some connection with the city like we did with the sales tax collection. And we decided that Harbor use was going to be our connecting point. And a lot of analysis went in on boats that came in and went and everything like that,” Castner said. “So primarily you had to check that box that said you provided some revenue into the city of Homer through Harbor fees. And that's differentiates between somebody leaving their boat out in Bristol Bay, all winter long and just, you know, flying back and forth and having lived here.”
Castner said recipients needed to be at least from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
“So you had to not only have your boat, in the Harbor for a day and pay, pay something, but you also had to live in the borough to qualify.”
Councilmember Rachel Lord wanted to make sure that there are provisions for crewmembers, as well.
“I just want to really call out that this includes crew members and, in talking to some friends, there was a lot of appreciation for thinking about and including crew members in a funding package,” Lord said. “So, thank you for that. And thanks for again, to those who provided comments from the industry.”
Councilmember Heath Smith said the program was broad, but being able to accommodate each niche will be tough.
“It's going to be really difficult to capture everybody in these programs. It's just going to be inherent that there's going to be people that are going to fall into whatever crack you may identify, but then not only in this program, but in all the other ones,” Smith said. “So, I think this is a really great effort and, and I think we're going to get the majority and I think we can be content with that.”
The council passed the Fishermen’s Economic Recovery Grant, or FERG, Program unanimously.
Hear more discussion about it on Thursday’s Covid Brief with Kathleen Gustafson.