CARES Act Fisheries Relief for California

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What is the CARES Act?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020. This more than $2 trillion economic relief package was designed to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The CARES Act provides direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries.

Fisheries Assistance

On May 7, 2020, the Secretary of Commerce link opens in new windowannounced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by the CARES Act to states, Tribes, and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The State of California was allocated $18,350,586. As a next step, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries will use these allocations to make awards to partners, including the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC). Based on plans developed by each state, PSMFC will disburse the funds to address direct or indirect fishery-related losses as well as subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19.

CDFW Spending Plan

CDFW has coordinated with the link opens in new windowPSMFC, NOAA, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska to develop a spending plan consistent with the CARES Act and NOAA’s guidance. The overarching goals of the spending plan are to distribute the funds equitably and efficiently with a focus on assistance to smaller businesses that may not have access to other types of relief provided by the CARES Act.

Given the wide-ranging nature of impacts and large number of participants expected to qualify for relief, CDFW is proposing to use the price paid for commercial entitlements held by individuals and businesses at the end of the 2019/20 season as the basis for fund disbursement. The sum of fees required for these entitlements will establish the baseline payout for each qualified applicant. The remainder of funds will be distributed equally to all qualified applicants. There are more than 11,500 potentially eligible applicants comprising offshore, shoreside, aquaculture, CPFV, and guide sectors. Eligibility will be based on a variety of criteria related to, among other things, a minimum 35% loss of fishing related income due to COVID-19 during the period January 1 – June 30, 2020 and certification that the applicant has submitted all required landing receipts, logbooks and/or other required documentation demonstrating active involvement in the qualifying sectors.

Due to the large number of potentially qualified applicants, CDFW is not planning to release the draft spend plan for formal public comment. CDFW has been, and will continue to, work closely with industry leadership to promote a fair, efficient, and expedient disbursement process.


CDFW is working closely with PSMFC to complete the draft spend plan for submission to NOAA. Following NOAA review and approval, claim forms will be mailed to all potentially eligible applicants to the address on file with CDFW and must be returned within 30 days to be eligible for disbursement. Following the close of the 30-day response period, final disbursement totals will be calculated and PSMFC will begin issuing relief checks to qualified applicants.

Please direct inquiries to CDFW at