Maine is providing more than $5.6 million in economic recovery grants for businesses impacted by the prolonged closure of the Canadian border.
Gov. Janet Mills said the grants, which are funded by the federal CARES Act, will be distributed among 94 charter transportation companies and other businesses as they await a planned reopening of the border next month. The average grant will total $60,365, with at least 37 businesses receiving the maximum $100,000 award, she said.
"The extended closure of the US-Canadian border created unprecedented economic hardship in communities across much of northern and eastern Maine," Mills said in a statement. "I hope these grants will provide some support to border businesses and charter transportation businesses across the state who are most in need as the border finally reopens next month."
The grant money can be used to cover payroll costs and expenses; rent or mortgage payments for business facilities; utilities payments; necessary operating expenses; expenses incurred to replenish inventory and other necessary re-opening expenses, according to the Mills administration.
Last week, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that beginning next month it will allow travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism.
Unvaccinated visitors will still be prohibited from entering the U.S. from Canada or Mexico at land borders, according to the department's statement.
Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination, according to Homeland Security.
Beginning in January 2022, the federal agency will require all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – "whether for essential or non-essential reasons" – to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.
The agency said the new policy will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.
In August, Canada began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel.
But less than a week later federal officials decided to extend similar U.S. restrictions, initially put in place in March 2020, which drew rebukes from politicians from border states.
Like many northern border states, Maine depends on a steady flow of tourism from Canada, especially during the normally busy summer months.
Canadians made up 14% of all visitors to Maine in 2019, and accounted for about 22% of retail sales by visitors to the state, according to Hospitality Maine.
Tony Cameron, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association, said the grant funding will help charter businesses that might not have qualified for other government aid and will put them "back on the road to recovery."
"Maine's diverse tourism industry relies on the success of all regions and segments for a healthy economy," he said. "Helping the charter and motorcoach segments which suffered greatly last year and those that have been slower to recover because of their location to the border of Canada is tremendously beneficial."
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Original Author: Christian Wade | The Center Square
Original Location: Maine gives grants to businesses impacted by border closure