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Border towns set to reap benefits after COVID-19 restrictions come to an end

Virus Outbreak United States Mexico
Posted at 2:00 AM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 07:01:08-04

MCALLEN, Texas — Since March 2020, border communities, like those in Hidalgo County, Texas, have dramatically changed.

Instead of Mexican citizens easily crossing the bridge to eat or shop, restrictions from the federal government have prevented all non-essential travel.

Former President Donald Trump first instituted the rules for land borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. President Joe Biden extended the policy when he took office.

While Americans like Juan Rodriquez have been able to cross into Mexico to visit family members, those same family members have not been able to come to the U.S.

"I’m an American citizen,” Rodriquez says. "My dad wants to come here to eat the Whataburger and he misses all the restaurants. He misses his family over here.”

CHANGES AHEAD

Starting Nov. 8, the U.S. will implement changes at border crossings. Vaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed to enter the U.S. again for non-essential purposes. Border communities with Canada are also impacted.

ECONOMIC IMPACTS

Losing out on foot or car traffic has impacted the U.S. economy.

The U.S. Travel Association reports the U.S. economy is losing $439 million a month with the border being restricted. 

In Nogales, Arizona, for example, a city with 20,000 people, 40 businesses have closed. In Niagara Falls, New York, sales taxes are down 10% compared to 2019.

In McAllen, Texas, a border community within a three-hour drive from the affluent Monterrey community, the impact initially was severe.

"For generations, we’ve been able to cross the bridge like nothing, like crossing a bridge in New York," said Roy Rodriquez, the city manager in McAllen, Texas.

He says not having Mexican citizens easily come and shop in his town’s mall has been a loss.

However, the surprising fact, he says, is his tax revenue hasn’t taken that much of a hit. The sales tax was actually up 23% in August— largely due to more Americans visiting Texas.

“It quickly recovered much faster than we anticipated,” Rodriquez said.