Point Roberts will get a two for one visit on Friday, July 9 by Washington state governor Jay Inslee and U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene.
On June 29, Inslee announced that funds of $100,000 from the state strategic reserve fund to help provide food security for the community and avoid a food crisis would be used to support the International Marketplace, which has been operating at a loss during the pandemic.
“I strongly support the reopening of the U.S./Canada border to support our border communities in Washington and British Columbia. The Point Roberts community has been isolated due to the closure throughout the pandemic, and while all Washington communities have been impacted, the situation up there is unique,” Inslee said in the announcement. “This action is a small bridge to support the entire community and retain a critical employer. I urge the U.S. and Canadian governments to take rapid and meaningful steps to reopen travel across the U.S./Canada land border, consistent with public health guidelines.”
In response, the owner of the Marketplace, Ali Hayton, said she was “so grateful and relieved to hear from governor Inslee; these funds will allow us to continue serving our community,” adding, “We have been so encouraged by his outreach, especially these last few weeks, and while we know he has no control over the border, we are hopeful that his continued advocacy will spur some change in Washington, D.C. As a business owner, I have never wanted a handout; I just want my customers back. And while these funds help stop the hemorrhaging at my business, the entire business community as well as every resident of Point Roberts needs to see an exemption at Boundary Bay so that we can ‘reopen’ along with the rest of Washington state.”
On June 23, Whatcom County executive Satpal Sidhu told county council that the Port of Bellingham would be granting the Marketplace $25,000 out of the state department of commerce small business program. He added that he had “another conversation with the owner that day and discussed the possibility of the [Marketplace] providing ‘meals on wheels’ service in Point Roberts, which can be funded with Whatcom County funds. … She feels this service can keep her employees busy and on the job.”
Both Inslee and DelBene have been actively canvassing both the U.S. and Canadian authorities seeking relief for Point Roberts. On June 30, DelBene spoke to Canadian ambassador Kirsten Hillman “about the dire situation in Point Roberts.” She stressed that the Boundary Bay border crossing needs to be reopened to protect businesses and livelihoods in Point Roberts.
On July 1, DelBene wrote to Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking him to allow fully vaccinated Canadians across the border into the U.S. Pointing out that on July 5 Canada would begin to exempt its vaccinated citizens from quarantine measures on their return, she highlighted the concern that “while this is welcome news for border communities, the economic and humanitarian benefits will not be realized if the United States does not allow vaccinated Canadians to cross our border.
“Opening the border to Canadians would significantly benefit the isolated community of Point Roberts that has been cut off from the rest of the country during this pandemic. Like other border communities, many small businesses in Point Roberts have been forced to lay off workers, reduce hours, or shut down entirely,” she told Mayorkas.
“For small businesses and communities on the border to build back better, we must immediately begin the process of reopening our border,” DelBene said.