Local fishers eligible for post-Isaac aid

Commercial fishers, shrimpers, crabbers and oystermen applying for loans to help replace or fix boats or equipment damaged during Hurricane Isaac are eligible for up to $250 from the Friends of the Fishermen Foundation.

“Friends of the Fishermen Foundation is offering up to $250 toward the cost of financing repairs or replacing equipment lost in the storm,” said Cullen Curole, South Central Planning and Development Commission economic development administrator. “Commercial fishers must apply for the aid. It is not a grant to do what you want with. It is to help with loan applications to help repair or replace damaged equipment.”

Friends of the Fishermen Foundation is part of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board, and the SCPDC serves as the fiscal agent and staff for the organization. Those wishing to apply for aid may call Curole at (985) 655-1051 or e-mail ccurole@scpdc.org. Language assistance for Spanish or Vietnamese fishermen who need help completing forms is also available.

“Friends of the Fishermen started in 2010 to assist fishermen and their families recovering after being affected by a series of natural disasters and the Gulf Oil Spill,” said Mike Voisin, FOTF chairman. “We have been able to help many families in our fishing communities, and we are hoping to be able to help more through this program.”

Following the oil spill, the SCPDC received 1,100 to 1,200 applications through the Friends of the Fisherman Foundation and gave out a total of 230 $500 awards to those who qualified. In 2011, there were almost 3,500 licensed resident commercial fishermen in the Tri-parish area.

“Friends of the Fishermen Foundation was dormant during 2011, and it has been reactivated in the wake of Hurricane Isaac,” Curole said. “There is no set deadline to apply, but we could see the endpoint in the next three to six months. No decision has been made yet.

“I have sent more than two-dozen applications off so far,” he added.

The South Central Planning and Development has low interest loans available for commercial fishers, but those applying for the aid do not have to be applying for a loan through the organization to be eligible for the funds.