ILWACO — Relief is making its way from Washington, D.C. to coastal communities facing economic hardship from tough fishing seasons.

U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, have tacked $20 million for Washington state fishery disasters onto a federal spending bill.

“This is meeting a need,” Herrera Beutler said. “Making sure folks can work and take care of their families is critical.”

The House Appropriations Committee on July 13 included the money as part of its $54 billion plan to pay for programs under the Commerce and Justice departments, the National Science Foundation and NASA in 2018.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced in January her department had determined failures for nine commercial salmon and crab fisheries in Washington, Alaska and California. Each, including the Westport and Willapa Bay non-treaty coho fisheries, had a large decrease in the number of mature fish or lost angling access during the past three years due to ocean and climate changes.

The Jan. 18 disaster declaration made the hardest-hit communities eligible for federal relief dollars. The money is expected to help with economic distress caused by lower-than-expected catches. It can also be used for and support programs to restore salmon runs. But, until last week, Congress had not approved any money for relief.

“This investment means jobs,” Kilmer said in a news release. “Declines in salmon runs have impacted our communities – everyone from the worker at the bait and tackle shop to the folks running a boat. Now, we are taking concrete steps to actually get the resources our region needs to restore our runs and keep the economy moving forward.”

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