Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jared Golden led 19 of their colleagues in sending letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to urge the quick distribution of the $200 million in COVID-19 relief funding for logging and log hauling businesses that was included in the COVID-19 relief package that was signed into law in December.
Last year, Senator Collins and Congressman Golden introduced the Loggers Relief Act to establish a new USDA program to provide direct payments to loggers who have been seriously impacted by the pandemic. Their bill was co-sponsored by Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. As a lead negotiator of the COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December, Senator Collins successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Logger Relief Act and $200 million in funding in the final package.
“The plight of our forest products industry has increasingly worsened since March of last year, when the onset of the pandemic crashed global pulp and paper markets and housing starts dwindled,” wrote Senator Collins and Representative Golden. “Given the severity of the situation, many loggers and haulers are facing hard decisions about whether they can afford to keep on in the industry.”
“In order to keep the broader forest products sector operational, we must ensure our loggers and haulers make it through this enormously challenging time,” Senator Collins and Representative Golden continued. “We urge you to quickly implement this critical provision in order to distribute this assistance as soon as possible.”
“Time is of the essence now and we must ensure that these pandemic relief funds for timber haulers and harvesters are distributed quickly and to the businesses they were intended for,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said. "This funding will literally be a lifeline for many struggling family logging and trucking firms in Maine and across the country, and it is essential that it be disbursed efficiently and with a minimum of red tape so it can begin having an impact on them and their communities. We thank Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jared Golden for leading the effort to secure this aid and Senator Angus King and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree for joining that effort."
The logging industry has experienced a steep decline in demand for wood fiber since the coronavirus pandemic began, leading to an estimated 20 percent or more drop in the timber harvest this year. The $200 million in relief funding will go to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that have, because of the COVID–19 pandemic, experienced a loss of 10 percent or more in gross revenue during the period beginning on January 1, 2020, and ending on December 1, 2020, compared to the same period last year. Maine’s logging industry is a linchpin of the state’s economy, generating an estimated $619 million in economic output, and providing $342 million in income to around 9,000 Mainers, most of whom live in rural communities.
Senator Collins and Representative Golden’s letters were signed by Senators King, Cornyn (R-TX), Smith (D-MN), Cassidy (R-LA), Baldwin (D-WI), Burr (R-NC), Wicker (R-MS), Tillis (R-NC), and Representatives Rouzer (NC-07), Palazzo (MS-04), Kelly (MS-01), Timmons (SC-04), Pingree, LaMalfa (CA-01), Tiffany (WI-07), Murphy (NC-03), Guest (MS-03), Kuster (NH-02), and Spanberger (VA-07).
Click HERE and HERE to read the letters.