Maine delegation touts launch of logging industry relief program

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Jul. 20—All four of Maine's congressional delegates are touting a new, $200 million pandemic relief program for the U.S. logging industry that they helped get approved.

The funding was provided through the Loggers Relief Act, which Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Jared Golden co-authored, and Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree co-sponsored last year. Funding will be available starting Thursday to U.S. logging and log-hauling businesses that have been seriously impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, they said in a joint news release Tuesday.

"Timber harvesters have been hit with a number of challenges in the past few years, but they continue to work hard to provide the wood fiber that is critical to Maine's mills," Golden said in the release. "Understanding the economic pressures that loggers face, Sen. Collins and I worked together to create this emergency relief program targeted specifically to loggers and log haulers. Now that the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is ready to disperse these funds, our offices are available to help constituents navigate the application process."

Timber-harvesting and hauling businesses are eligible to apply for a portion of the $200 million if they experienced at least a 10 percent loss in revenue in 2020 compared with 2019. Direct payments from the relief program to businesses will be equal to 10 percent of their gross revenue from 2019, with the funds to be used for operating expenses, including payroll.

U.S. paper mills slashed output or shut down their operations altogether during the pandemic, which the American Loggers Council estimates caused a reduction of $1.83 billion, or 13 percent, in the value of logger-delivered wood, the news release said.

Maine's logging industry is a major contributor to the state's economy, generating an estimated $619 million in economic output and providing $342 million in income to roughly 9,000 Mainers, most of whom live in rural communities, it said.

"Throughout Maine's history, our forest products industry has supported good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and strengthened rural communities," Collins said in the release. "Loggers were already facing significant headwinds due to a changing 21st century economy and unfair trade practices, as well as the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay and the shutdown of the No. 9 paper machine and biomass boiler at Sappi in Westbrook. COVID-19 only compounded these challenges."

Eligible businesses can apply for funds beginning Thursday by visiting the USDA's website at farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance/pathh.

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