Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden sent a letter 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 December COVID-19 relief package. In February, Senator Collins and Representative Golden led 19 of their colleagues – including Senator King – in sending initial letters urging the USDA to quickly disburse the relief funding.
“We are writing to follow up on our February 3, 2021, letter to Acting Secretary Shea, which has gone unanswered, outlining the urgent need to swiftly disburse the $200 million that was included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to provide relief to timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses affected by the pandemic,” wrote the Maine Delegation. “While we were pleased to see the recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that timber harvesting and timber hauling provisions will be included along with other new programs under ‘USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers,’ it is critical that you use every authority available to distribute this relief quickly to those who desperately need it.”
Last year, Senator Collins and Representative 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 King and Representative Pingree. Senator Collins, a lead negotiator of the COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December, and Representative Golden successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Logger Relief Act and $200 million in funding in the final package.
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.
Click HERE to read the letter.