Maine seafood dealers and processors will have access to $10 million in federal pandemic relief funds to upgrade their infrastructure under a new state grant program, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday. 

The seafood infrastructure program will provide grants to seafood dealers and processors to upgrade buildings, utilities and equipment, and invest in new technology. The funds are intended to help dealers increase the supply of Maine-harvested seafood, strengthen their ability to deliver to markets in Maine and elsewhere, and create and sustain jobs, the Mills administration said in a news release.

The program will launch early next year, it said. The state Department of Marine Resources will begin accepting applications in the coming months. 

The coronavirus pandemic shut down the lobster and seafood industry’s traditional markets overnight, forcing processors and dealers to pivot from selling to the food service industry to the direct-to-consumer and grocery store markets. 

In a news release, Mills called the state’s seafood industry the “cornerstone of our economy,” generating about $2 billion annually. 

The industry has adapted with “characteristic Maine grit and ingenuity” in the face of the pandemic, she said, but it hasn’t been easy. 


“Helping our dealers and processors upgrade their infrastructure will ensure the strength and vitality of this industry for years to come, will keep Maine people working in our waters and waterfronts, and will keep delivering Maine’s world-class seafood across the globe,” the governor said.

Changing the way lobster dealers and processors operated came at a great financial cost, and supply chains have been volatile, which required investment into new ways to get products to market, Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, said in the release. 

“Unfortunately, many of Maine’s dealers and processors have had limited access to other federal COVID-19 relief programs, and the expenditures they have made to remain in business during the pandemic have depleted their financial resources and left many of them unable to continue to make the investments necessary to grow,” Keliher said.This funding is designed to provide a flexible opportunity for businesses that wish to make investments that will enable greater resilience to changing market conditions in the future. Such investments are critical to the stability of Maine’s seafood industry.”

The program is part of Mills’ Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, which is funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine this year. 

Maine’s plan invests nearly $1 billion of the American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three main goals: economic recovery from the pandemic, long-term economic growth and infrastructure revitalization.

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