Frequently Asked Questions - Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program

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General

1. What is the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program?

The Fish Harvester Benefit offers income support to self-employed fish harvesters and sharepersons (those who receive a share of landed value, non-wage earning crew). The benefit covers up to 75% of income losses beyond a 25% threshold for the 2020 tax year when compared to the higher fishing income reported in 2018 or 2019. The maximum benefit is $10,164.

The Fish Harvester Grant is a non-repayable grant to self-employed fish harvesters with a valid fishing licence for 2020 (issued by DFO or their province or territory for freshwater commercial harvesters). The Grant provides a maximum non repayable support of up to $10,000, dependent on gross self-employed fishing income from 2018 or 2019. Payments are made at 10% of the higher gross income from fishing reported in 2018 or 2019 up to the maximum and, payments are not to exceed actual 2020 expenses.

Eligibility - Benefit

2. Who is eligible to receive the Fish Harvester Benefit?

Fish harvesters and sharepersons who experience self-employed fishing income declines of greater than 25% in 2020, compared with their best year of 2018 or 2019. A minimum of $2,500 in reported income in either 2018 or 2019 is required to eligible for this program.

Eligible proponents (applicants):

*Proponents (applicants) must not have applied for nor received benefits to support their own wages from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

3. Who is not eligible to receive the Fish Harvester Benefit?

Ineligible proponents (applicants):

4. If I am an owner-operator and have accessed the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program for my waged crew, but I did not receive any benefits personally, can I still apply for the Fish Harvester Benefit?

As long as an individual has not personally benefited from or received any funding (for himself or herself) from the CEWS, they can apply for the Fish Harvester Benefit.

5. If a harvester has received Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, can the individual still qualify for the Fish Harvester Benefit stream of the Program?

A harvester may still qualify for the Fish Harvester Benefit stream of the Program if he or she has already received EI benefits.

Eligibility - Grant

6. Who is eligible to receive the Fish Harvester Grant?

Eligible proponents (applicants):

To be eligible for a Grant, harvesters must have reported commercial fishing landings in either 2018 or 2019 and have obtained a valid commercial fishing licence for 2020. A minimum of $5,000 in reported self-employed fishing income in 2018 or 2019 is required to be eligible for the Grant. They must also have a valid Fisher Identification Number or Unique Identifier issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada or from their provincial or territorial government in the case of freshwater commercial harvesters.

*Proponents (applicants) must not have applied for or received benefits under Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or equivalent measures

7. Who is not eligible to receive the Fish Harvester Grant?

Ineligible proponents (applicants):

8. What is the minimum income required to apply for the Grant?

Eligible proponents (applicants) must have self-employed income from commercial fishing activity in 2018 or 2019 equal to or greater than $5,000.

9. If I have multiple licences, can I apply for multiple grants?

Harvesters are only permitted to apply once for the Grant. As the basis for Grant payments are reported self-employed income from all commercial fishing, this should cover occasions where a harvester holds multiple licences.

10. I am leasing a licence, I am a substitute operator, or I fish under a commercial licence that belongs to a Hunter & Trapper Organization, can I apply for the grant?

No, only the owner of the licence that has landings can qualify for the Grant, not the person leasing the licence, the substitute operator, or the harvester under a licence that belongs to a Hunter & Trapper Organization.

However, these harvesters may still be eligible to the benefit stream of the program.

Eligibility - General

11. Are freshwater harvesters, including Indigenous harvesters, eligible for this program?

Yes, freshwater harvesters who have reported self-employed income from a fishery on their 2018 or 2019 tax return will be able to apply for the Benefit and or the Grant. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with applicable provincial and territorial governments to identify freshwater commercial harvesters who may be eligible to also apply for the Grant portion of the program.

12. I am a bait harvester, am I eligible to the program?

As long as bait harvesters meet the eligibility criteria, they can apply to the program.

13. Does an applicant need to engage in fishing activity in 2020 to apply for the program?

There is no requirement to engage in fishing activity in 2020 to apply for the Benefit or Grant, but an applicant must have reported self-employed commercial fishing income in 2018 or 2019 and additionally, must have a valid 2020 commercial fishing licence at the time of application to be eligible to apply for the Grant. The Grant is to assist vessel operators/owners with estimated business expenses this fishing year. Grant payments cannot exceed actual business expenses for 2020.

However, all applicants have to attest that they have lost fishing income in 2020 due to COVID-19. Therefore, harvesters that have lost income for other reasons or former harvesters that have retired would not have losses that qualify for the Program.

14. Can an Aquaculturist who also has a 2020 commercial fishing license apply to receive the Benefit and / or Grant?

Although individuals and companies within the aquaculture sector are not eligible, it is not a disqualifying factor by itself when meeting the eligibility criteria.

The following are eligible for the Fish Harvester Benefit:

The following are eligible for the Fish Harvester Grant:

Additional criteria for the Fish Harvester Grant:

15. Are first time harvesters eligible for the Fish Harvesters Benefit and/or Grant?

First time fish harvesters (i.e., harvesters fishing for the first time in 2020) that have not reported self-employed fishing income in 2018 or 2019 are not eligible for either the Benefit or the Grant. The Benefit and Grant payments are based on historical participation as a self-employed commercial harvester. These payments are income-based, so previous income as a self-employed commercial harvester is required to calculate funding amounts. The use of historic self-employed income allows for the calculation or income losses in 2020 compared to recent years. In terms of the Grant, using historic income provides a means to issue Grant money during this fishing season as opposed to waiting until 2021 when actual business costs will be determined.

16. Can an estate apply to the Program?

Yes, estates will be eligible to apply but will be required to meet the existing Program criteria. However, as these files present additional complexities, a parallel process is being developed that will allow the executor or the legally appointed administrator to submit an application. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with Service Canada to develop a process for estates.

Executors or legal authorities for estates should contact the Service Canada Call Centre (1-833-674-8283; TTY: 1-800-465-7735) to indicate their interest in submitting an application on behalf of an estate so that they can be contacted when the process for estate applications is made available. Executors or legal authorities for estates will be contacted back after the closure of the program to complete the application.

17. Do Employment Insurance (EI) benefits have an impact on program eligibility? Conversely, does the Benefit or Grant of the program have an impact on Employment Insurance benefits?

The two programs do not impact each other. Harvesters who receive EI are eligible to the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program. Conversely, the Fish Harvester Grant and Benefit are not income from employment and should not affect the payment of EI benefits.

Application period

18. What is the eligibility period for the Fish Harvester Benefit and Fish Harvester Grant?

The eligibility period is the 2020 calendar year. All applications for the first Benefit payment and the Grant must be received by October 19, 2020 (6 p.m. Eastern Time). The second application for the Benefit portion of the program must be submitted between April 1 and October 1, 2021. Otherwise, the harvester will be deemed ineligible to have received their first payment and that initial payment will be considered an over-payment that must be paid back to the Government of Canada.

19. When can I apply?

Applications must be submitted between August 24, 2020 and October 19, 2020 (6 pm Eastern Time) to be eligible to receive the Benefit or Grant.

20. What if a proponent (applicant) misses the application window?

If an application has not been filled prior to the cut-off date, October 19, 2020 (6 p.m. Eastern Time), the proponent (applicant) will be unable to submit an application and will be deemed ineligible to qualify for either the Benefit or the Grant.

Application process

21. Do I have to complete two separate applications, one for the Benefit and one for the Grant?

No, there is one application for both the initial Benefit payment and/or the Grant. A second application is required for the Benefit portion of the program and it must be submitted between April 1 and October 1, 2021. Otherwise, the harvester will be deemed ineligible to have received their first payment and that initial payment will be considered an over-payment that must be paid back to the Government of Canada.

22. Can I complete two separate applications, one for the Benefit and one for the Grant?

A harvester can only submit one request for both the initial payment of the Benefit or the Grant. Even when a harvester considers he or she is eligible for both streams of the program, only one application must be completed.

In the event the applicant encounters an error "Error 3 The Fisher Identification Number or unique identification number entered cannot be found.", they will need to contact Service Canada (dedicated line: 1-833-674-8283, TTY: 1-800-465-7735) to resolve the issue, before proceeding with the application for the benefit and the grant.

23. Can I make corrections to my application once it has been submitted?

Harvesters are encouraged to carefully review their information before submitting their application to avoid any payment delays or errors in payment amount(s). Harvesters must attest that the information provided on the application is true and correct to the best of their knowledge. Once submitted, it is complex to correct the application as it is processed within hours in order to issue payments quickly.

24. How can I apply if I do not have a computer?

Harvesters are encouraged to obtain assistance from the call centre.  Service Canada’s call centre (dedicated line: 1-833-674-8283, TTY: 1-800-465-7735) will be available to assist harvesters in applying for their benefits.

At this time, employees will be unable to provide assistance with the Fish Harvesters Benefit and Grant applications at the Service Canada Centres as client-use computers are not available due to COVID-19 measures. Clients who wish to visit a Service Canada Centre are encouraged to Find out if your local Service Canada Centre is open and to make an appointment if they wish to speak with an in person employee, by completing the service request form.

25. Can someone apply for me if I am out fishing during the application period?

Yes, a third party can apply on a harvesters behalf, but they must have access to the proponent’s (applicant’s) required information to apply and they must identify themselves as applying for a harvester.

Information required to apply

26. What personal information is required to submit an online application?

Individuals applying for one or both of the Fish Harvester Benefit and Fish Harvester Grant using the online application need to ensure that they have the following information available:

Additional requirements for Grant application include:

27. I am incorporated and I file taxes both under my personal name and my corporation. Which numbers should I use when providing my 2018, 2019 or estimated 2020 fishing income and/or expanses?

If you have fishing income under both your personal name and a corporation, you can opt to use the reported amounts from either the personal or the corporation tax filing, depending on what is most beneficial. However, you can’t use both as you are required to provide a SIN to apply for the benefit and/or the grant and attest to the income from personal or corporate, not both. A SIN can only be used once and only one application can be made.

If you decide to use numbers from your corporation and your corporation operates under a fiscal year that is different than the calendar year, you would use to the last two fillings that were made for the last two fiscal years (in lieu of 2018 and 2019, which should cover the last 2 years), and would use the upcoming/next filling to come (in lieu of 2020, which should cover this current year).

Finally, some harvesters have more than one FIN, one personally and one under the corporation. It is possible that only one will work to apply for the grant, please try both.

28. What are the non-deferrable expenses that I should consider when applying for a grant?

Non-deferrable expenses are those declared in the harvester’s income tax. They include reasonable, tax deductible, business expenses related to fishing (i.e., mooring and/or docking fees; licencing fees, commercial rent; rent or lease of equipment and machinery; fuel and maintenance fees; interest-portion of loan repayment; and, extra costs related to additional safety measures related to COVID-19). Example of expenses that would not be eligible include capital asset acquisition or amortization of existing assets, refinancing of existing debts, and lobbying activities or donations.

29. Will I have to submit actual expenses in 2020 to access the Grant?

The Grant payment is based on 10% of historic (2018 or 2019) self-employed commercial fishing income and not actual 2020 expenses. While no report will be required, Grant payments cannot exceed actual estimated expenses in 2020. Harvesters should retain receipts as they would for tax filing purposes in the event that their grant payment is subject to an audit.

30. Can an Aquaculturist who also has a 2020 commercial fishing license use their income from their aquaculture operation as part of the 2018 or 2019 income, or can they only use fishing income?

The Benefit and Grant payments are based on historical participation as a self-employed commercial harvester and are income-based, so previous income as a self-employed commercial harvester is required to calculate benefits.

31. Will my personal information be shared amongst other Federal Government Departments/Agencies?

As an income tested program requiring taxpayer information, some personal information will be used and shared between departments for purposes of the program with the consent of taxpayers. Subsection 241(5) of the Income Tax Act would permit taxpayer information to be shared with DFO and ESDC upon receiving taxpayer consent.

Payments - General

32. When can I expect to receive my first payment?

The 1st payment of the Benefit and/or the Grant will be issued within 5 business days of submission of a successful application during the application period from August 24 to October 19, 2020. Payments by direct deposit will be received in the proponent’s (applicant’s) bank account within 5 business days. Payments by cheques will also be issued within 5 business days with delivery of cheques subject to mail delivery timelines.

33. Are the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant taxable?

Payments from both streams, the Benefit and the Grant, are taxable revenue but not at the source. Tax slips (T4 and RL-1 for residents of Quebec) will be provided in early 2021, for any benefits paid in 2020. An additional tax slip will be issued in early 2022 for the second installment paid in 2021 for the Fish Harvester Benefit.

34. What is the minimum payment amount that can be awarded?

No payments will be issued if the amount due is less than $2 (administrative efficiency reasons).

Payments - Benefit

35. How is the allotted amount determined for the Fish Harvester Benefit?

Proponents (applicants) will provide information on the higher of 2018 or 2019 reported gross self-employed fishing income equal to or greater than $2,500 (aligned with the minimum qualification threshold for EI Fishing Benefits), and attest to their expected income in 2020. ESDC will then calculate the expected total benefit associated with the information provided by the proponent (applicant).

A second application is required between April 1 and October 1, 2021 following submission of 2020 taxes in order to calculate actual income losses in 2020. Failure to submit the second application during this period will result in the applicant not being eligible for the program. Funds received from the initial application will be considered an overpayment and will be required to be paid back to the Government of Canada.

As you input information in the system, it will provide you with a breakdown of how the calculations are made to determine what payment you will receive.

36. How much can I expect to receive for my first Benefit payment?

Qualifying proponents (applicants) will be provided up to 60% of their calculated total benefit, for a maximum first payment of $6,098.40 from the Benefit stream of the program. The maximum total amount of the 1st and 2nd Benefit payments is $10,164.

As you input information in the system, it will provide you with a breakdown of how the calculations are made to determine what payment you will receive.

37. How much can I expect to receive for my second Benefit payment?

Qualifying proponents (applicants) will be provided the remaining benefit as calculated based on 2020 reported fishing income. The maximum total amount of the 1st and 2nd payments is $10,164.

38. When can I expect to receive my second Benefit payment?

The second installment of the Benefit can be requested as early as April 1, 2021 but no later than October 1, 2021 after the proponent’s (applicant’s) final 2020 self-employed fishing income as assessed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Proponents (applicants) are required to submit the second application during this period after filing their 2020 income taxes, so that actual losses can be calculated. Failure to submit the second application will result in the proponent (applicant) not being eligible for the Benefit payment and put the proponent (applicant) in an overpayment situation with all funds received from the first payment to be returned to the Government of Canada. All payments for the second portion of the Benefit should be completed by the end of November, 2021.

39. What happens if I overestimate my income in my initial application for the Benefit and my losses are greater than anticipated?

Upon the required second application for the Benefit, actual income losses will be used to determine the overall Benefit payment. If a harvester underestimated losses in the initial application, then the second payment may be higher than originally anticipated. If losses were less than anticipated, then the second payment may be less than originally anticipated or the proponent could be in an overpayment situation and could be advised that they must pay back a portion of their initial Benefit payment.

40. Why can’t I receive all of my benefit this year?

Providing 60% of the Benefit payment this year will put money in harvesters’ pockets this fishing season as opposed to waiting until 2021 to determine actual losses. A second application is required between April 1 and October 1, 2021 following submission of 2020 taxes in order to calculate actual income losses in 2020. Any additional amount of eligible Benefit owed will be paid following the second submission.

41. Why am I receiving the Fish Harvester Benefit in two separate payments?

The issuance of 60% up front will provide funds to harvesters during this fishing season when they are needed based on estimates of losses as opposed to waiting until the end of the year. This approach seeks to mitigate the risk of overpayments which may occur in situations when a proponent (applicant) under estimates their 2020 self-employed fishing income in mid-season. In such situations, the second payment can be adjusted as required.

Payments - Grant

42. How will the Grant be paid?

The Grant will be paid at 10% of reported self-employed gross income from fishing (in 2018 or 2019), up to a maximum payment of $10,000. However, the Grant cannot exceed estimated expenses for 2020.

As you input information in the system, it will provide you with a breakdown of how the calculations are made to determine what payment you will receive.

Overpayments

43. What happens if I receive an over-payment?

Individuals that applied, but are not confirmed by CRA as eligible between the first and second payment, will be notified that they are not eligible for the program and that their first payment is an overpayment. Individuals will be provided 30 days to supply other supporting information if they do not agree with their ineligibility status and wish to have their application reassessed based on the new information provided. If the false attestation was made intentionally, then the existing Criminal Code provisions on fraud may apply and there could be criminal penalties.

44. When and how will I be notified if I incur an over payment? 

The Program will notify recipients of overpayments stemming from their first application early in 2021. If there is an overpayment stemming from their second application, recipients will be notified no later than November 2021 providing them approximately 10 weeks to make repayments to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). Notifications will be in writing at the address provided on the proponent’s (applicant’s) application form.

Troubleshooting - Online Application

45. I am an Indigenous harvester as a crew member, but not a vessel master. Under which category should I apply?

Please select the option “Shareperson” and not “Indigenous fish harvester designated as equivalent to enterprise head under a communal commercial fishing licence”.

46. What should I do if I encounters an error "Error 3 The Fisher Identification Number or unique identification number entered cannot be found.” ?

Fisher Identification Number (FIN) and Unique Identification (UI) must be entered in the same format in which they are provided, which is in capital letters and with hyphens where they apply. Data entry is case sensitive.

Some harvesters have more than one FIN, for example one personally and one under a company. It is possible that only one will work, please try them all.

If the error message persists, please make note of the error and contact the Service Canada call center (dedicated line: 1-833-674-8283, TTY: 1-800-465-7735), who will be available to help harvesters apply for their benefits.

47. What happens if the system returns an error and I cannot complete and submit my application?

Please make note of the error and contact the Service Canada call center (dedicated line: 1-833-674-8283, TTY: 1-800-465-7735), who will be available to help harvesters apply for their benefits.

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