A Democrat-led effort to pass a bill in the U.S. Senate containing aid to Point Roberts and other exclaves failed after it fell short of the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold. The aid component was contained in the restaurants and small business relief package proposed by Senate Democrats in continuation of Covid-19 relief programs.
In an email to Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder, Amanda Wyma-Bradley from U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s office wrote, “Only 5 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for this important bill, which made it impossible to get to the 60-vote threshold. We are evaluating our options for next steps, and I will keep all of you in the loop as we determine what that might be.”
The exclave component was modeled after U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene’s Point Roberts Small Business Fairness Act. The bill included $40 billion for restaurants, $1.4 billion for border businesses and $10 million for the three U.S. exclaves.
DelBene’s legislative assistant Abe Friedman told Calder, “Though the bill had a majority of senators vote in favor of it (52-43), the bill failed to overcome the filibuster (which requires at least 60 votes in favor), due to Republican opposition. We were extremely disappointed by this outcome and understand that you are too. Representative DelBene will continue to pursue options to provide additional relief for Point Roberts.”
Calder has continued his efforts to get the Canadian government to drop the requirement that travelers must use the ArriveCAN app when they enter Canada from Point Roberts. “We are currently at about 60 percent of inbound border crossings from where we were pre-Covid lockdown. We are requesting the Canadian government to exempt Point Roberts from the ArriveCAN app which is causing many to pass up coming to visit us and is a useless imposition on the public.”
Calder expressed thanks both to Murray and DelBene for their efforts on behalf of Point Roberts and asked Friedman to continue working on reinstating H2-B immigration status for Point Roberts businesses that seek to hire Canadians for certain types of jobs. Previously, local businesses could hire Canadians if they satisfied a set of conditions such as advertising the positions for local residents and other requirements.
Joan Dickerson, owner of the former Brewster’s Restaurant on Gulf Road, said the program ended around 2008 just before the summer season. “I was able to use it for cooks, servers and general laborers. We were required to reapply and pay for permits every six months. I kept a log of every American who applied for the jobs and why they weren’t qualified. It was a lot of paperwork and very expensive,” adding, “When the program went away, I changed my business into a store so I wouldn’t need as much labor.”
Almost all local customer-facing businesses in Point Roberts are in need of staff as border traffic continues to increase as summer approaches. The International Marketplace, Kiniski’s Reef Tavern Restaurant and Bar, Breakwaters Bar & Grill, Westwind Marine Service, Whidbey Telecom, Saltwater Café and others have all been desperately seeking to hire workers.
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