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US-Canada border and The Cataract City: The economic impact of the shutdown

Posted at 12:29 AM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 00:41:25-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Parking lots and streets in Downtown Niagara Falls were seemingly empty Wednesday. Only a few people ate at restaurants outside among empty sidewalks. One reason for this is because of the closure of non-essential travel across the Canadian-U.S. border.

“This is like January 1st with better weather. It’s very unusual,” John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA, said.

Reuters reported Tuesday the closure will extend now through the end of July.

“It’s not like an international border, it’s like closing off a neighborhood…and those people are like our true neighbors to the north and they’re impactful to our community,” Percy said.

Shop, dine and stay. In that order, Percy said those are the categories where Canadians spend their money while on the U.S. side of the border. Those economic benefits have been non-existent for the region and the city since March. Percy anxiously awaits reopening and is planning now for a strong rebound.

“When we start to really calculate all the numbers and what we missed out on, it is going to be significant. There is no doubt about that,” Percy said.

Tourism and sales tax revenue are the main areas of concern as the border remains closed.

“One of the quickest things to rebound is travel and that too will rebound and we’ll be stronger and better than ever,” Percy said.

Percy said research showed Canadians go to The Fashion Outlets more than anywhere else in Western New York. Citing research by Visa, Percy said Canadians spent $59 million dollars in Niagara County last year.

“You shop and you live sort of within the two communities,” Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said.

In March and April, Mayor Restaino said the city lost 22% of sales tax and at one point in March lost 33% alone.

“To be honest with you there aren’t a lot of different places to sort of make that revenue up. We’re going to have to figure out a way to get from here to the end of the year,” Restaino said.

While the border has been closed, Restaino said he has been in touch with the Niagara Falls, Ontario mayor on what reopening will look like for the two cities when it’s allowed. Back in the U.S., the mayor said The Cataract City is in talks to collaborate with other governments in order to shrink expenses.

“We’re going to do all that we can to try and stretch the money that we have so that all of the residents can see some productivity and some improvement in our community,” Restiano said.

A CBP spokesperson released this statement Thursday to 7 Eyewitness News in regards to restrictions on non-essential travel along the U.S.-Canadian border:
“Discussions concerning the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada land border are ongoing. The travel restrictions shall remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 22, 2020 unless they are amended or rescinded.”