Collins, King, Pingree Urge DHS to Issue Additional H-2B Visas to Support Maine’s Tourism Industry
Washington, March 29, 2021
U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to increase the number of H-2B visas to help small businesses fill seasonal job openings for the upcoming season.
The letter calls on Secretary Mayorkas to increase the existing 66,000 H-2B visa cap to 135,320, which is the amount that was available in fiscal year (FY) 2007, the same year that the Returning Worker Exemption was in effect. DHS used similar authority to issue additional visas every year since FY 2017, with the exception of FY 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“H-2B workers help seasonal businesses such as inns, restaurants, and hotels operate at full capacity. We have already heard from Maine businesses, particularly in the tourism and hospitality industries, that the demand for workers already exceeds the number of available visas,” wrote Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree. “We ask that you increase the number of available H-2B visas as soon as possible so that employers will have a sufficient number of employees for the upcoming season.”
The Department of Labor (DOL) has received requests for more than 96,000 worker positions for the 33,000 available slots in the second half of FY 2021. The demand for these visas demonstrates that many areas of our country simply lack the working-age population needed to meet the demand for seasonal jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector.
Senators Collins and King have continuously worked 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. At a Senate Labor Committee hearing last month, Senator Collins highlighted how the H-2B visa program is vital in supporting jobs and businesses in Maine’s tourism industry. Earlier this month, Senator King joined a group of colleagues to urge President Joe Biden to rescind former-President Donald Trump’s ban on seasonal, employer-sponsored, and cultural exchange visas under Proclamation 10052. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Pingree secured an amendment in the House-passed FY 2021 spending bill to ensure that the Secretary of Homeland Security issues all available visas.
Click HERE to read the full letter.