Ahead of August recess, the U.S. Congress made significant progress on a number of the recreational boating industry’s priorities including key boating safety priorities, approving the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund out of committee, and introducing legislation that would allow small businesses to protect themselves from natural disasters.
Coast Guard Authorization Act On July 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill includes notable provisions the recreational boating community has been supportive of including mandatory usage of engine cut-off or “kill” devices for boaters operating boats under 26 feet. This builds on Congress’s work two years ago that required manufacturers to install these devices on vessels under 26 feet, something the industry has long been in compliance with.
Another notable part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act includes granting the U.S. Coast Guard new authority to streamline approval of recreational boating industry construction standards, technologies, and devices.
The House and Senate have not reached an agreement on this yet and are negotiating a new agreement to be introduced in the Senate.
Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Trust Fund On July 22, 2020, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Trust Fund, a $650 million funding mechanism used for conservation and fishery restoration efforts, fish stocking programs, and infrastructure improvements for the recreational boating and angling community.
Reauthorization of this Trust Fund is a top priority for the entire recreational boating and angling community. In addition to the regular uses of the Trust Fund, it will also require studies to be conducted on the impacts of non-motorized vessel usage on recreational access, as well as the impacts of abandoned and derelict vessels. These studies are supported by MRAA and will increase the efficacy of the whole fund moving forward. The bill now heads to the full Senate floor for consideration.
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Protect Small Businesses from Natural Disasters On July 8, champions of our industry in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises (PREPARE) Act, landmark bipartisan legislation that would give small businesses the opportunity to access much needed capital to invest in disaster resilient infrastructure — a top priority for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. This bill would allow the Small Business Administration to make low-interest, fixed rate loans of up to $500,000 to small businesses to invest in their properties to protect their facilities, real estate and contents from natural disasters.
This will preserve small business job gains in communities that depend on them and prevent against the existential threat of permanent business closure. According to FEMA, roughly 40-60 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster.
This program would be the only SBA program focused solely on small business disaster prevention, and would complement rebuilding efforts through the government agency’s disaster loan programs. Research shows that every $1 the government spends on disaster mitigation, such as improving existing infrastructure or elevating homes and businesses, saves taxpayers an average of $6.
A study by the MRAA and AMI found that marine businesses need significant funding to protect from flooding, requiring an average of $260,000 to invest in projects like elevating buildings, bulkheads, constructing flood barriers or levees, dry and wet floodproofing, yard regrading, and sewer back up protections. This is an issue that transcends industries where all small businesses across the country face similar needs to mitigate damages caused by an increase in frequency and severity of natural disasters, costing the U.S. over $800 Billion in the last decade.