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Local businesses impacted by state COVID-19 mandates gather to share stories, gather information and plan for the future

Business owners and policy experts gather to discuss options available to businesses impacted by COVID-19 mandates from the state (January 7, 2021). Still from live-stream video
Business owners and policy experts gather to discuss options available to businesses impacted by COVID-19 mandates from the state (January 7, 2021). Still from live-stream video

FERNDALE, Wash. — A local grassroots organization has built a growing following of businesses who have been forced to temporarily reduce capacity or close their businesses because of COVID-19-related mandates by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and enforced by the State Department of Labor and Industry and the State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The group assembled a panel of experts to provide information and field questions from business, primarily restaurant, owners and decision-makers during a community forum held yesterday, January 8th.

The event was organized by a group calling itself “We Will Whatcom” and they have hosted and participated in several other public events recently according to their website.

In the time leading up to the panel discussion, several people from local businesses spoke to the audience to share their hardships and challenges as their businesses have been forced to close or reduce their levels of service because of the mandates. In addition, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo phoned-in to provide a law enforcement perspective and to answer questions. Politicians Doug Ericksen, Ben Elenbaas and Kyle Christensen were given time to speak at the end of the forum.

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The forum was live-streamed and recorded and is provided below in its entirety with permission of the organizers. The following table provides the points in the video to begin hearing the different speakers.

SpeakerTime
Opening by Andrew Gustafson9:20
Joe Murphy16:05
Sheriff Bill Elfo21:45
Amberleigh Brownson29:30
Unnamed business owner33:15
Miguel Ramos42:10
Nicole McDonald47:40
Mary Gibb53:15
Panel discussion56:10
State Senator Doug Ericksen1:42:50
County Commissioner Ben Elenbaas1:51:40
Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen2:00:30

The panel was composed of Mark Harmsworth, director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for Small Business, Donna Rex with the Constitutional Law Group and Jason Hoff with the Washington State Bowling Proprietors Association. Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach was reported to have been invited to sit on the panel but did not attend.

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