NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona Senator Mark Kelly has introduced a bill that could provide much-needed relief to businesses along the southern border, impacted by COVID-19.
The bipartisan ‘Border Business COVID-19 Rescue Act’ would give up to $500,000 in loans to struggling small businesses within 25-miles of the U.S-Mexico border.
Businesses would also have access to a $10,000 grant -- within the total loan amount, which would not need to be repaid.
If you go to Nogales, you might hear people say "la frontera sigue cerrada," meaning, "the border is still closed."
In fact, it has been since March 18, 2020.
“It’s been very challenging for all merchants in southern Arizona,” said Bruce Bracker.
Bracker is the District 3 Supervisor for Santa Cruz County. He says Nogales has gone from a bustling, lively border town to a ghost town, with most storefront signs reading “closed.”
“On Morley Avenue, you have about 35 businesses that could be open and you probably have four stores that are open right now. It’s isolating. It’s -- you know, they’re hurting,” he told KGUN9.
He says these are the effects of stopping all non-essential travel from Mexico.
“And many businesses nine months ago closed their doors because they just couldn’t afford to keep their doors open. It’s affecting every walk of life in this community,” added Bracker.
So he says, this bill could bring life back into Nogales.
“If this bill passes, it will be a lifeline for those small business owners who, you know, the PPP money doesn’t really help them. They need money to pay their bills today,” he said.
Bracker says the $10,000 grant for business owners will help take a huge load off their shoulders. The new challenge will be bringing in customers.
“Every time we’ve had issues with the border crossing, people in Mexico change their buying habits. And so, this is now a year where we’ve not allowed them to cross the border. So they’ve found resources for the things they used to buy here, in Mexico. How strong that desire is to come back into the United States to shop -- your guess is as good as mine,” Bracker told KGUN9.
Though, he says, generally merchandise is cheaper in the states and foot traffic should slowly trickle in, as long as businesses there still exist.
“We appreciate the help and the advocacy from all these representatives. From all these elected officials to work on our behalf,” he said.