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Sandy-hit fishing firms can get state grants

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Credit: AP

Local fishing businesses that took a battering from superstorm Sandy may be eligible for a grant of up to $50,000 under a new federally funded $20 million program announced Monday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The funds, available through the state's Coastal Fishing Industry Grant Program, can be applied to uncovered damages or economic hardship from the storm, which devastated coastal fishing communities.

Sandy caused $77 million in damage to New York fishing businesses, the state estimates: $58 million to recreational businesses and $19 million to commercial fishing interests.

"The regions most devastated by superstorm Sandy are also vital parts of our state's fishing industry, supporting thousands of local jobs and generating billions in economic activity," Cuomo said in a statement. "With peak fishing season arriving, I am directing new federal funds to support this critical industry on Long Island and Staten Island as it works to reach full recovery."

New York's $5 billion commercial fishing industry in 2011 contributed $1.8 billion to the gross state product, and supported 42,000 jobs across the broader economy, the state estimated. The recreational side generated an estimated $369 million in sales in 2011, contributed $212 million to gross state product, and supported 3,000 jobs across the broader state economy, the state said.

Gary Crowther, owner of the Great Peconic Bay Oyster Co., which cultivates and sells oysters in Jamesport, lost his small boat during the storm and suffered other damage.

Crowther said he is eager to apply for the state grant. "I could definitely use a boat," he said.

Steve Witthuhn, a Montauk charter fishing boat captain on the Top Hook, estimated that he had around $12,000 in cancellations after Sandy. He had been considering a small business loan to cover his losses. "This will definitely help," he said. "It will help me put money back into my business."

Fishing businesses can apply for the funds at the following Internet address: Fishing companies can also call 1-855-NYS-SANDY.

The grants also will cover damage from Tropical Storm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Cuomo said.

In addition, fishing businesses that saw uncovered losses exceeding $50,000 can apply for separate grants and funding through the state's small business recovery program.

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