Washington, D.C.—Following a push led by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that they will provide an additional 22,000 H-2B visas to help small businesses fill seasonal job openings for the upcoming season. These visas will supplement the previous supply of 33,000 H-2B visas for the second half of the current fiscal year, all of which have been claimed.
Last month, Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to increase the number of H-2B visas. Also last month, Senator King urged President Biden to rescind a Trump ban on seasonal and cultural exchange visas. In addition, in February, Senator Collins secured a commitment from U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to work to ensure that there are sufficient visas to meet the needs of seasonal businesses.
“We have heard from many Maine businesses, particularly in the tourism and hospitality industries, that are having difficulty finding enough workers to fully staff inns, restaurants and hotels to prepare for the busy summer season,” said Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree in a joint statement. “Today’s announcement will provide welcome relief to Maine employers who might otherwise be unable to open or would have to curtail their operations, hurting local communities and Maine workers. Although there remains an overwhelming need among employers, these additional visas will help position Maine’s seasonal businesses for success after an extremely challenging year. We will continue our efforts to reform the H-2B program to ensure Maine small businesses do not suffer from a lack of workers.”
“Once again Maine’s congressional delegation led the way in getting additional H-2B visas for Maine and the rest of the country’s summer seasonal employers,” said Greg Dugal, director of Government Affairs for HospitalityMaine. “We are deeply grateful for their persistence on this issue. We just wish it could be more!”
H-2B workers support American jobs and small businesses. Bipartisan research has found a direct correlation between increased numbers of H-2B workers and a rise in pay across the board for all employees. As required by law, employers must first make a concerted effort to hire American workers to fill open positions. H-2B visas fill needs for American small businesses when there are not enough able and willing American workers to fill the temporary, seasonal positions.