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Lawmakers, business leaders respond to US border announcement

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:16 AM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Lawmakers and business leaders from our area welcomed Tuesday’s announcement from the White House that the land border with Canada will reopen for non-essential travel next month.

The new rules announced on Tuesday will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Officials at the Best Western hotel in Plattsburgh say that since news broke about the border reopening, calls from their Canadian clientele have been nonstop. “They’re like family, so it’s nice,” said the hotel’s Julie Kramer. “It’s exciting though to see people who have been coming here for some many years.”

Kramer says the hotel is gearing up to be ready in a few weeks, when it expects to see an influx of reservations coming from Canadian travelers. “I think we are going to be a little busier than we expect, that’s for sure,” she said. But they are facing a few roadblocks when it comes to shortages in the supply chains and staffing. “It’s been hard. I’m just looking for a few more people to come on board with us.”

Others in the business community are also optimistic. “I don’t think there is a sector this won’t affect,” said Kristy Kennedy with the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau. She says millions of dollars are funneled into the local economy thanks to Canadian visitors. “Our relationship with our Canadian travelers, our Canadian companies, just our neighbors to the north is huge for this area. It’s entrenched in absolutely everything we do.”

“This is what we have been calling for for several months,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake. “I like the steps that are being taken. I wish they could have been taken so many months before this.”

He says there is work to do in mending the relationship between the region and its Canadian counterparts. “I think, overall, for Canadian residents and American residents there will be a little work to do but we do that all the time,” Jones said.

He says the announcement is a start to getting back to some kind of normal. “For us, some semblance of normalcy would not have happened until we had that border opened for land visitors.”

LAWMAKERS SOUND-OFF ON REOPENING
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.

“We welcome and commend the Biden Administration’s decision to safely reopen the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Like so many communities along both borders, Vermont towns have close, long-standing ties with Canadian ones. It is good news that fully vaccinated family members and loved ones will now be able to reunify and businesses will once again be able to welcome Canadian visitors with ease. We know how much personal and financial hardship has been experienced on both sides of the border, and see the reopening as an important step in a long road to recovery.”

Governor Phil Scott, R-Vt.

“Last night the White House informed me that, next month, fully vaccinated Canadians will be able to cross our land border once again. This is a significant step forward on the path from pandemic to endemic management of COVID-19 and will mean a great deal to many Vermonters and our communities.

“Vermont and Canada are not just neighbors, our communities are linked by family, friends, social and cultural connections, natural resources, commerce and more. Reopening the land border will allow our communities to reunite, after being separated for nearly two years.

“This decision by President Biden’s administration is based on the very clear fact that vaccines work. Americans know vaccines are our best tool for getting back to normalcy. And today’s announcement is another very positive step forward.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.

“The reopening of the border to vaccinated individuals is an important and long overdue announcement, and I am glad the administration heeded my calls to end these travel restrictions in order to help New Hampshire’s economy rebound and support our tourism communities.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen/D-N.H.

“Canada opened its border to the United States August 9th for people who are fully vaccinated. We should have done it then. I’m delighted that it is finally happening.”

Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

“I’m pleased the Biden-Harris administration has taken this long-overdue step to safely reopen the U.S. border to fully vaccinated travelers,” said Rep. Annie Kuster. “For months I have called to get this plan put into effect, and I look forward to the positive impact this decision will have on New Hampshire’s tourism economy and families with loved ones on the other side of the northern border.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York

“Kudos to president Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the U.S.,” said Senator Schumer. “The high vaccination rates on each side of the border have opened the door of safe cross border travel and will now safely increase the rebirth of the economic energy of Upstate NY.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York

Finally, the New York-Canadian border will be open again to vaccinated travelers from both nations,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The northern border is an indispensable economic partnership and ties our two nations together and I have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to enact this common sense policy now that 78% of Canadians over the age of 12 are vaccinated. This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families, and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York

“After months of bipartisan advocacy, I am proud to announce the northern border will finally be reopened,” Stefanik said. “For too long, residents of the North Country have been denied access to family, travel, and commerce. Now, families can be reunited and our small businesses will be restored. I have been fighting for the North Country since the beginning and will not stop until this result is delivered for our communities. This is a long overdue step, however it is an important first step to rebuild the confidence in our cross-border relationship and friendship with our Canadian partners. I am committed to strengthening the ties along our Northern Border for the long term.”

Governor Kathy Hochul, D-New York

“I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders to Canada, something I have called for since the beginning of the closure. Canada is not only our trade partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and our friends. From Western New York to the North Country, I look forward to welcoming our Canadian neighbors back to New York as we continue to rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”

Senator Dan Steck, R-Glens Falls

“The northern border reopening can’t come soon enough,” said Senator Dan Stec. “Like so many others, I’ve pushed the Biden administration to do what is only fair and right by allowing Canadians to enter the US, just as Canada did for our citizens many months ago. Why it took so long for our federal government to act remains a mystery. In light of the social, emotional and economic impact of this prolonged closure, this good news is a great relief. The bipartisan and persistent efforts of local, state and federal elected officials, especially Garry Douglas and the chamber of commerce, as well as many others, finally prevailed.”

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake

“For months I have been calling for the federal government to reopen the United States-Canada land border and it finally appears that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So many families have been separated due to this border closure, and so many local businesses have missed their Canadian customers; it is well beyond time that they will be reunited. It is also hopeful for people who own second properties on the other side of the border and may now able to return to them after over 19 months. The border closure was more than just an inconvenience for border communities like ours- the closure completely disrupted our way of life and I look forward to welcoming our northern neighbors back to the North Country when the restrictions are lifted in November. I want to thank our local officials, including the North Country Chamber of Commerce that has been advocating for this for months on end; it is their tenacity and advocacy that helped bring this long overdue announcement to the forefront today.”

Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman

“I remain cautiously optimistic regarding the news of the US/Canada border reopening. While the latest news is the strongest signal yet for the long awaited reopening we have seen time and time again that details matter. It is well known our culture and economy has international influence due to a strong relationship with our Canadian neighbors. We look forward to welcoming our friends and family back. These last 18 months of separation have challenged many things but our region’s commitment to reuniting has never waived. Hope is on the horizon.”

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