Senator Collins secured $200 million for logging and log hauling businesses in the December COVID-19 relief package
Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to expedite the distribution of COVID-19 relief funding for logging and log hauling businesses.
Last year, Senator Collins and Representative Jared 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. Senator Collins, a lead negotiator of the COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December, successfully secured the inclusion of the Loggers Relief Act and $200 million in funding in the final package.
“I know that USDA announced this morning that this program and others would be implemented in the next 60 days. But I would point out that the program was signed into law on December 27. So it has taken nearly six months just for loggers to be told that it could take yet another two months before they actually receive relief,” said Senator Collins. “And given their losses during the pandemic, this is a problem. Is there any way for the USDA to speed up the implementation of this program so that it does not take another 60 days?”
“We will do it as quickly as we can within the resources that we have and within the legalities that we have to follow. Senator, I really appreciate the fact that you feel that this has been delayed, but I think you have to look at all of the other activities and work that we have had to do at USDA,” responded Secretary Vilsack. “And under the circumstances and given the staffing reductions that we faced coming into this administration, I think our people have done a pretty daggone good job of getting things out.”
“I understand and appreciate your folks are suffering, and we will try to get that relief,” continued Secretary Vilsack. “And I know the chair[man] is also interested in this issue. She has probably talked to me about a half a dozen times. So we will make sure that we'll do it as quickly as we possibly can.”
“Thank you for that commitment. The chair[man] and I worked very closely to get this assistance included,” replied Senator Collins.
In February, Senator Collins and Representative Golden led 19 of their colleagues in sending letters urging the USDA to quickly disburse the relief funding. Additionally, in April, Senator Collins led the Maine Delegation in sending a letter to the USDA to urge the quick distribution of the $200 million in COVID-19 relief funding for logging and log hauling.
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.