Governor Jay Inslee calls on President Biden to make an exception for Point Roberts, so that the border of the small enclave community can be immediately opened to vaccinated Canadians.
The small town of Washington sits on a lonely tongue of land which is only accessible by water – or by traveling approximately 25 miles through British Columbia.
While Canada opened its border last month to Americans who can show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test, the US border has remained closed to all Canadians for non-essential purposes since the start of the pandemic, and the will stay until at least October. 21.
For Point Roberts businesses, that means depriving the city of the vast majority of its customer base for 18 months.
Most of the houses in Point Roberts are summer residences for Canadians. As Governor Inslee pointed out in his letter to the Biden administration, the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce says Canadian visitors represent 85% of the city’s annual income. Because vacation homes are not considered a primary focus, these Canadian owners have not been permitted to visit since March 2020.
Point Roberts residents and business owners have said many stores, restaurants and other small businesses in the city have closed – and those that remain open are on the brink. Ali Hayton, owner of the city’s only grocery store, told KIRO Radio earlier this year that she was losing $ 30,000 every month.
“The economic damage and depredation suffered by these communities is becoming more severe every month – and with each monthly extension of these blanket restrictions,” Governor Inslee wrote in his letter.
In addition to losing two summer tourism seasons – the time of year that allows businesses to weather slower winters – Point Roberts businesses are now losing some of the few customers they had, as vaccinated residents are now free to go. ” go shopping and recreate yourself in Canada. Hayton said in August that she didn’t blame the residents of Point Roberts at all for wanting to see something new after a year and a half in the same square miles, but it was devastating to her business nonetheless.
“We were already down 80%,” said Hayton. “And then you take these 800 people who have been captive at Point Roberts for 16 months and say, ‘You can go to Canada now. So you take the 20% business we have left, and you wiped it out completely. “
Speaking to Congress last week, US Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked the federal government to make an exception for Point Roberts, as well as to open the entire border to vaccinated Canadians, just as Canada has done to vaccinated Americans. The state’s congressional delegation called for the border to be reopened as early as last winter, for the benefit of small businesses along the Washington / British Columbia line that rely on cross-border tourism.
Murray pointed out in his last remarks to Congress that Canadians have always been allowed to travel to the United States as long as they can test negative – but crossing the border is prohibited.
“You can take a boat right now from Canada to Point Roberts. You can cross the border from Vancouver to Seattle, ”she said. “But at the moment, because this border is closed, a Canadian family cannot go to Point Roberts for lunch.”
Inslee added in his letter that since vaccinated British and European travelers will soon be allowed to come to the United States, he therefore sees no reason why the whole border should not open to Canadians who have received the vaccine. Highlighting the state and province’s high vaccination rates, Inslee wrote that he could “think of few communities better prepared to be reunited on this basis than Washington state and British Columbia.”
“A vaccinated Canadian is no more dangerous than a person vaccinated from anywhere else in Washington state or any other state in the United States,” Inslee said. during a press conference Last week.
Along with members of Congress in Washington, Governor Inslee has for months been calling on the federal government to reopen the border so that state businesses can start picking up some of their Canadian customers again.
“It is an incredible ordeal not only for Canadian citizens, but also for Americans and Washingtonians who are suffering economically, seriously because of this unnecessary and unreasonable extension,” Inslee said at the press conference.
In the meantime, the state government offering another round of Working Washington Grants up to $ 50,000 specifically for the small businesses most affected by the border closure. To be eligible, a business must be in direct contact with customers, have annual sales of less than $ 5 million, and operate in Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, Island, Skagit, Whatcom, Okanogan, Ferry counties. , Stevens or Pend Oreille. Business owners can apply online between October 4-18.
Governor Inslee also gave a grant of $ 100,000 over the summer to the Point Roberts grocery store, International Marketplace. However, Hayton said that even with the grant, the losses could become too insurmountable to continue if the border closure goes on for much longer.