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Washington gives grants to boost border businesses

Courtesy of Washington Department of Commerce

The state of Washington is providing financial help to businesses in northern counties that have been hurt by the long-term closure of the Canadian border.

The Department of Commerce awarded $2.6 million to more than 200 companies, many in the hospitality and tourism industries, said the agency’s secretary, Lisa Brown.“One in particular in Pend Oreille [County] is a non-profit that participates in cultural events. That was very meaningful to me, certainly. In the Okanogan, breweries and hotels and, again, organizations that support the arts," Brown said.

Okanogan County businesses picked up about half of the 23 eastern Washington businesses that, collectively, were awarded nearly $300,000.

The border was reopened this week, allowing Canadians in non-essential roles to enter the United States for the first time in 19 months.

Brown says her agency was only able to give money to 20% of those that applied.

“This was money that came from federal assistance but that the state legislature passed through to us specifically for, this is actually, I believe, our fourth round of Working Washington grants," she said.

She says a fifth round may be offered after the first of the year and some of the applicants this time around may qualify for that. She says the state offers another program that makes low-interest loans available to pandemic-affected companies.