U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, announced Friday that more than $8 million in fishery disaster assistance would be going to Washington state tribes, and another $440,000 to non-tribal fishing communities.

The funding was approved in 2018, but has been held up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to the senators’ statement.

The breakdown is: $1.49 million to the Lummi, Nooksack, Tulalip, Suquamish, Makah, Lower Elwha, Jamestown S’Klallam and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes; $3.8 million to the Hoh, Quileute Tribe, Stillaguamish, Nooksack, Muckleshoot, Upper Skagit, and Suquamish Tribes; $1.65 million to the Makah Tribe; $970,000 to the Quileute Tribe; and $440,000 to non-tribal communities.

The funding will be distributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission beginning May 1.

“The senators have pressed OMB to distribute the funding over the past two years, with Cantwell and Murray most recently writing a letter earlier this month to Acting OMB Director Russell Vought urging him to do so,” read the statement. “In the letter, the senators highlighted the economic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic and response has taken on Washington state tribes and fishing communities, and emphasized the need for the speedy distribution of federal fishery disaster assistance funding.”

“In these particularly uncertain times, I’m glad to see tribes and other fishing communities across our state finally get the federal assistance they need to recover, and I won’t stop fighting to make sure the federal government is doing its part to ensure Washingtonians who rely on fishing are getting the help they need to survive this crisis,” said Murray.

“Fisheries are a cornerstone of Washington’s maritime economy, and fishery disasters result in significant nutritional, cultural and financial burdens for Tribes,” said Cantwell. “ I will keep working to improve the fisheries disaster process and develop mitigation strategies to lessen the impact of these disasters.”

The senators noted that the need for the funding is greater now because the COVID-19 response has led to fishery closures and reduced exports. The senators said they pushed for $300 million for tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and are working to include additional relief funding in future coronavirus relief legislation.

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