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Peterson, DelBene Call on US and Canada to Provide Transparency, Flexibility for Border Communities During COVID-19

Representatives Collin Peterson (MN-07) and Suzan DelBene (WA-01) have called on the Canadian government to provide more flexibility and transparency for Americans who reside in the exclave communities of the Northwest Angle in Minnesota and Point Roberts in Washington.

In a letter to the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the lawmakers, who represent these two communities geographically separated from the rest of the country, urged the Canadian government to provide more advance notice of border policy changes and an exemption allowing travel through Canada to access the rest of the United States.

“The restriction on all discretionary travel at the Canada-U.S. border was extended until September 21, 2020 and was announced only five days before the restrictions were set to expire. Should border restrictions continue, more advanced notification of restriction extensions and an explanation of the metrics that contribute to future decisions would be much appreciated by our constituents,” the lawmakers wrote. “We would also greatly appreciate exemptions to allow Americans to briefly and safely transit through Canada without exiting vehicles to allow access to Point Roberts and the NW Angle.”

Exceptions to the non-essential travel ban allow Americans to travel by car to and from Alaska through Canada. The same flexibility has not been given to those living in the NW Angle and Point Roberts who only need to travel a short distance through Canada to reach the rest of the United States.

Business owners have been devastated in the Northwest Angle by the border closure. Without the ability to travel by land through Canada, Americans are forced to travel by open water in long and often dangerous conditions to access the Angle. This is a logistical and safety hazard that has hurt businesses and prevented Americans from visiting family or homes they own.

In addition to this letter, Peterson had written to Canadian officials in July with a proposal to provide GPS tracking devices to allow property owners to travel to the Northwest Angle, while still adhering to travel restrictions between the United States and Canada.

Peterson also joined a letter from the Northern Border Caucus, calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to develop a phased opening plan for the border, along with consideration of interim measures to ease travel restrictions for family members and property owners who must cross the border to access their U.S. property.

And in August, Peterson introduced the Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act to provide relief for seasonal businesses in Minnesota’s Northwest Angle. This bill would make forgivable loans available to remote recreational businesses who have lost more than 50% of their revenue during the period between March 1, 2020, and July 1, 2020, as compared with the same period during previous year.

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