News Releases

Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act would provide forgivable federal loans to small businesses hurt by travel restrictions between U.S. and Canada brought on by COVID-19

Prolonged closure of U.S.-Canada border has reduced crossings from Canada into Whatcom County by 98 percent, putting deep financial strain on local businesses, governments that count on revenue from non-essential travel

REPORT: Canadian visitors a significant part of Whatcom County’s retail sector, accounting for “an estimated $140 million in spending,” “average of 11.7% of taxable retail sales”

Senator Murray: “Point Roberts and other border communities have faced some of the most difficult economic challenges of this uncertain time…I’m going to keep pushing the federal government to provide relief and clarity to these communities as quickly as possible”

ICYMI: Senator Murray calls on U.S. diplomats to work with Canadian officials to address broader issues border communities are facing - LINK

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation to provide much-needed relief to small businesses in the exclave community of Point Roberts in Washington state, as well as other American communities along the U.S.-Canada border, that are hurting due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions between the United States and Canada. The Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act would provide forgivable federal loans to small businesses in exclaves of the contiguous United States near the Canadian border. Previously, Senator Murray joined her Washington state congressional colleagues in a letter to the Acting U.S. Ambassador to Canada, urging cooperation between the U.S. and Canadian governments to find solutions that would allow limited and safe travel along the northern border for those who live and work in border communities like Point Roberts.

“The prolonged travel restrictions at the border have disrupted countless lives and exacerbated the devastating economic consequences of this pandemic for small businesses and local governments all over Whatcom County, especially in Point Roberts,” Senator Murray said.

Under the bill, forgivable federal loans would be available to eligible small businesses for up to 75% of last year’s revenue, so long as a business’s revenue dropped by at least half during the second quarter of 2020. Loan forgiveness would be reduced by any additional relief received through the Paycheck Protection Program or other federal loan forgiveness programs. 

“Point Roberts and other border communities have faced some of the most difficult economic challenges of this uncertain time, and I’m going to keep pushing the federal government to provide relief and clarity to these communities as quickly as possible,” she added after introducing the legislation.

Due to its unique geography, Point Roberts residents must cross the Boundary Bay Border Crossing and the Peace Arch Border Crossing to access the rest of Whatcom County and the mainland United States. Since March 21, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has prevented non-essential travel of American citizens between Point Roberts and the U.S. mainland, isolating the community from the rest of Washington state and the country.

Additionally, the travel restrictions have put businesses in Point Roberts in a particularly difficult position because most U.S. citizens can’t reach the exclave by land, effectively barring tourists and visitors—a major revenue source for the region—and hurting the local economy. For instance, according to a recent report by the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, nearly seven million trips were made into Whatcom County by visitors from Canada in 2018; approximately one-quarter of those visitors came specifically for the purpose of shopping, and they spent an estimated $138 million in local stores and businesses. According to the same report, the on-going border closure has resulted in crossings from Canada into Whatcom County dropping 98 percent from their 2018 numbers, undermining this important revenue source.

Read text of the bill HERE.