During a Tuesday, May 18, meeting of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she plans to address issues that continue to plague residents of the Northwest Angle.
Klobuchar – the U.S. Senate delegation chairwoman of the group, which gathers to allow exchanges between lawmakers from both countries – said she sees the ongoing restrictions at the Angle as a challenge that exists between the U.S. and Canada.
“I am meeting with our counterparts (Tuesday) for three or four hours about a host of different issues related to our countries, and the longstanding friendship and also the challenges,” Klobuchar, D-Minn., told the Grand Forks Herald Monday afternoon. “And this is right up there as a challenge. I want to remind them of this ... to try to get some action.”
In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Klobuchar on Monday wrote a letter to Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., stressing that Canada’s “limitations have posed challenges for employees who must travel across the border to reach their workplace and businesses that depend upon cross-border travel to reach customers and access supplies.”
Further, Klobuchar said, “it is vital" that U.S. residents of the Angle are able to travel freely between the Angle and the mainland U.S. It’s also "crucial to safely expand other travel to and from the Northwest Angle consistent with public health guidance.”
The Northwest Angle has been generating headlines since the border between the U.S. and Canada was closed in the spring of 2020. The Angle is a sliver of land at the top of Minnesota that's surrounded by Canadian lands and the waters of massive Lake of the Woods; those who live there are U.S. citizens, but are limited in their access to and from the U.S. by Canadian restrictions.
Last week, three other Minnesota federal delegates outlined measures they believe will help ease the impact of the border closure on the Angle. Among the proposals is the ANGLE Act, which stands for Assistance Needed for Great Losses Experienced in Isolated Northern Lakes Economic Territory Act. Its purpose is to create a forgivable loan program for “remote recreational businesses” affected by the northern border closure, as reported last week by the Herald. Another proposal is a corridor that would facilitate cross-border travel for people with negative COVID-19 tests.
In April, a public forum was held in International Falls, allowing residents of the region a chance to discuss border-related issues with elected leaders. Shortly thereafter, Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., urged Secretary of State Tony Blinken to take up the issue with Canadian officials. Also, Republican Minnesota Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber recently wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging a “swift, mutually agreeable resolution” to the border closure.
In her Monday interview with the Herald, Klobuchar said that as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control begins to scale back its COVID-related restrictions, “it makes it more imperative that we fix this for the Angle.”
She envisions multiple solutions: “First is lifting these restrictions. Second is forgivable loans." And as data show vaccination rates improving, "this is the time to act," she said.
Also in April, Smith and Klobuchar, along with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced legislation to provide aid to Angle residents as well as residents near Point Roberts in Washington. Their Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act would allow for forgivable loans to certain qualifying small businesses. According to a previous release from the senators, it would be available for up to 75% of last year’s revenue, if a business’ revenue dropped by at least half during the second quarter of 2020. Forgiveness would be reduced by the amount received under the Paycheck Protection Program or other federal loan forgiveness programs.
“It has been such a difficult time for the residents of the Northwest Angle,” Klobuchar said.