At a ZOOM meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Senator Steve Daines spoke with Flathead County officials, Chamber of Commerce and recreation industry leaders about the various issues facing the country and specifically Northwest Montana.

When asked about the possibility of the Canadian border being reopened so that economic and tourism traffic could to begin flowing again, Daines was not optimistic about any border reopening.

“I think with the increase in COVID positive numbers that we’re seeing across the country, I know that President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau recently discussed this very issue, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re going to see an extension of that closure now,” said Daines. “Probably into August sometime, just looking at some of the numbers that have been coming with the Washington numbers.”

Daines said one topic that has paralyzed small businesses regarding COVID 19 is possible civil liability.

“On the liability issue we’re hearing a lot of concerns, and it’s not just from the business community,” he said. “We hear that from our small businesses, medium sized and larges businesses as well. It’s also affecting schools and it’s affecting medical facilities where you’re having lawyers coming in and filing these lawsuits. There were over 800 of them filed across the country as of a couple of weeks ago. We’re concerned that there’s going to be a trial lawyer pandemic.”

Daines was asked about the next wave of government assistance as the COVID pandemic wears on, and he said this effort will be directly administrated by and for small business.

“On the Relief for Main Street Act that we’re looking at,” he said. “This is a derivative of the PPP program, however, this would be targeted at employers of 20 or fewer, and we would actually allow administration of those grants at the local economic development group level, versus coming down from the SBA or the banks.”

Daines is also working with drug manufacturers and medical facilities on a project called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the manufacturing and development of drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19.