Click HERE to read the letter
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) co-led a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, urging him to increase the number of H-2B visas to provide relief to small businesses struggling to fill seasonal job openings in the current tight labor market. Their letter was co-signed by 12 of their colleagues.
The letter calls on Acting Secretary Wolf to increase the existing 66,000 H-2B visa cap to the maximum allowable by law, which is permitted by a provision in the recently-passed appropriations package. DHS used similar authority to provide 15,000 additional H-2B visas in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and 30,000 visas in fiscal year 2019.
“The continued tightening of the labor market warrants this increase,” the Senators wrote. “When the Department of Labor opened the H-2B visa application window this past January, it immediately received applications for over 96,400 H-2B worker positions, nearly triple the 33,000 H-2B visas available for the second half of the fiscal year. This wave of applications reflected a severe shortage of seasonal workers in a very tight labor market…In some industries, particularly tourism, we fear that the demand for workers so far outstrips the available supply that businesses could be forced to curtail operations, putting at risk the jobs of American workers who fill year-round positions at these establishments.
“We hope that you see the need for these additional visas, and that you understand the economic importance of them to seasonal businesses around the country,” the Senators continued. “We also ask that you release the additional visas as soon as possible, so that employers can prepare properly for the upcoming season.”
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.
Senators Collins and King’s letter was co-signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Click HERE to read the letter.