I worked at the Island Seafood Fish Plant in Herring Neck until 1992 when the Cod Moratorium was announced. In 1994, at the age of 33, I attended an ABE class in Fairbanks and completed Level Three. I don't expect to earn a living in the fishery again, so I am trying to retrain.
I had hoped to take a course called, Human ServiceWorker, Special NeedsOption. It is a one year course offered by the Corona Institute from Grand Falls; enrolment and funding will determine whether or not the Island Learning Center will be able to accommodate the people of the area.
When the moratorium was called, things became very stressful. You didn't know what the next day would bring or where you would get the next week's groceries. The bank we had dealt with all our lives was calling all the time, and since we hadn't missed a payment before, we were very hurt by their lack of understanding.
Lots of people were in the same situation. We had moved into a new house in 1991 and were really worried about losing everything since there was still a nine-year mortgage to pay. We had two small children and didn't want to move; we didn't know where to turn.
In the beginning almost everyone's lives in the community were in turmoil. The uncertainty of it all was getting on everybody's nerves... nobody knew if they qualified for TAGS, how much they would get if they did qualify, would it be enough to pay their monthly bills? There was a lot of confusion about the criteria set out by the Government.
Personally, my husband and I didn't have any trouble qualifying. But, we have good friends who didn't qualify and they became very frustrated with the whole thing. One friend of ours didn't qualify because he didn't catch $3,000 worth of cod in the time-frame set out. The amount he made at that time was 25 percent of his earnings, but because it didn't come up to the magic $3,000, his application was rejected.
It wasn't his fault the fish weren't out there. He was the sole owner of his enterprise and he only used hook and line but that was how he earned his living.
Whereas, if a person was a crew member and made maybe $2,000, but the enterprise he was with made the right amount, then the crew member qualified. In my opinion there were some people in the community who deserved TAGS benefits and others who did not.
It was the unfairness that caused friction and badfeelings around town. I wonder if the system could have got around this by having more personalcontact with the fisher people, instead of trying to communicate through the mail.
Although I know I deserve the TAGS benefits, I sometimes feel ashamed to have people know I'm receiving it. I find myself having to try and justify it to people. Most people do understand, but the ones that don't make things very hard and confusing for me at times.
We didn't ask for the moratorium and I feel that if the Government had listened to the people years before, we probably wouldn't have needed the moratorium at all. I know I shouldn't feel ashamed. For the most part I don't, but there is always that nagging feeling when I say we are receiving TAGS benefits.
Some of the people I know are not getting enough to live on, but my husband and I are and we are quite thankful and satisfied. I think most people are thankful.
I'm expecting the TAGS benefits to be cut in 1997, so getting the Human Service Worker course is going to make the difference for me. If it doesn't work out, I think my days in the workforce will be very short. We really want to make a go of it in our own hometown.
- Why do you think Elaine sometimes felt ashamed to be receiving TAGS?
- Give the dictionary meaning of the word 'criteria'.
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