Vermonters are anxiously awaiting word on when the border with Canada will fully reopen — following a closure that dates back to March of 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said Tuesday he pressed the White House for answers.
"They continued to defer, which is disappointing, because I believe it's past time to open the border," the governor told reporters.
Monday, the Canadian government announced it will allow fully-vaccinated people from the U.S. to cross into Canada once again. Leisure trips without a quarantine will be allowed starting Aug. 9, Canadian officials said.
However, there is still no word on when the U.S. government will allow Canadians to come south, Scott lamented after a meeting with White House officials Tuesday morning.
Scott said he asked the White House to meet again with the governors of all the border states to discuss policies around travel to and from Canada.
Governors of other border states, including Maine and Washington, have also been urging a reopening of the border, Scott said.
Vermont's three-personal Congressional delegation similarly wants to see restrictions eased.
"I believe it is important for us to follow Canada’s lead and reopen our side of the border to fully-vaccinated Canadians for non-essential travel purposes," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said in a written statement Monday. "Our Congressional Delegation called for a resumption of greater cross-border travel in the beginning of June and we will continue to call for a safe reopening of the Northern Border until that is accomplished."
In Swanton, Geoff Domey said he has benefitted from having a business a few miles from the border.
"It just brings a lot into this little town," Domey said, telling NECN and NBC10 Boston that Canadian customers are typically 5-7% of the business at his auto parts store.
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Prices in the U.S. are often cheaper than in the Montreal area, so some Canadians make a short drive over the border for certain purchases, Domey said.
"People in Canada are just coming into the United States, we're the first thing they see," he noted, referring to how downtown Swanton businesses can benefit from travel on I-89.
However, Domey's not getting that normal foot traffic these days, because of the lengthy border closure to all but essential travel.
At Swanton's Grand Ave. Quick Stop, Jessica Savage said she wants to welcome back customers from Canada who are fully vaccinated.
"I think it would definitely be a positive thing for everybody that's lost out during the COVID ordeal," Savage said.
Additionally, because many people who live in northern Vermont have relatives and friends in Canada, the closure is impacting much more than just shopping.
"There really are a lot of people that have been separated from loved ones, from family, from friends — and 16 months is a really, really long time for something like that to happen," said Jeff Lawson of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. "And it does come full-circle back to the economy, you know. Our proximity to Canada, some of the shared history, some of the shared culture, really does shape us as a destination for travelers from other parts of the world."
Scott noted he has several questions for White House officials in the meeting he requested for governors — including what a traveler from Vermont could encounter upon re-entry to the U.S. following a leisure trip to Canada starting Aug. 9.