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CARES requirements vary for fishermen

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Commercial fishermen had a rough season this summer, for myriad reasons. As such, CARES funding from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and city of Kenai could be welcome relief.

However, while borough and city programs both target commercial fishermen, their terms of eligibility are very different. To receive funding from Kenai, you have to be a resident of the city but you can fish anywhere in Alaska. For borough funding, you don’t have to be a resident of the borough, you just have to do your fishing here.

Basically — recipients of city funding must live in Kenai, while recipients of borough funding must fish in borough waters.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said they designed Kenai’s program to benefit residents.

“The commercial fisher grant program is under our individual assistance portion of our CARES Act funding, and under that we have focused very much on assisting individuals that are residents of the city of Kenai,” Ostrander said.

Also, Ostrander noted, there is very limited commercial fishing that actually happens within the boundaries of the city. So it wouldn’t make sense for fishing within that area to be a requisite.

Ostrander says there was some confusion during the first round of applications about eligibility.

“We received a number of applications in the first round from folks who lived outside the city of Kenai, and they were denied,” he said.

He hopes that there is less confusion among applicants going into the second round, which opened Oct. 1.

The borough, on the other hand, kept its residency requirement open, so it would not preclude city residents from applying, says Brenda Ahlberg, the borough’s community and fiscal projects manager.

That’s because borough CARES funding was distributed to businesses that are located in the borough’s unincorporated communities, only.

“If we were to try to do it regarding where they have their landings, then that would have eliminated a lot of our commercial fishers, because they’re doing landings inside of city limits,” Ahlberg said. “And we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

The borough closed its second round of applications for small businesses, nonprofits and commercial fishermen Sept. 25.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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