With spring nearing, there is always a lot of excitement in the air for warmer temperatures and sunshine! This past week, I found myself traveling to attended my third Fly-in to Washington D.C. in less than a year (my fourth trip in 2 years) to meet with our Senators and Congressman about the H2B Visa program that helps fill in our seasonal employment gaps. This work Visa program provides a legal, seasonal workforce for businesses during high-season labor demands. With the seasonality of industries like landscaping—including seeding, sod growing, plant suppliers and nurseries—as well as seafood processing, hospitality, forestry, carnivals and food concessions (to name a few) it is difficult to find people who can and want to work only a few months out of the year.
The Ohio contingent attending Senator Sherrod Brown’s weekly morning coffee.
At M.J. Design we were fortunate to secure our needed visas for 2018, but many of our friends and colleagues in the Landscape industry are in nervous anticipation. There are only 66,000 H2B visas available for the entire country each year. Congress elected to allow for a Returning Worker Exemption (RWE) in 2016, but it was for only one year and has to be voted on every year. The RWE would allow for any returning H2B worker from the previous three years to be exempt from the 66,000 cap. With the rise in the economy and low unemployment, employers are finding it more and more difficult to hire enough domestic workers to fill their labor needs. Statistics show for every H2B worker, employers still support 4.3 American workers.
Myself, and 25 other H2B users from Ohio, were in Washington last week to meet with our Congressman and Senators to explain our situations and how we need action. For the 33,000 visas that are allotted for the 2nd half of the year (begin date of Apr.1), there was almost a 56% increase in the number of requests from 2017. As of January 23rd, there were 92,576 workers requested for the 33,000 allotted slots. It is clear without the RWE, 65% of small and seasonal businesses that requested H2B workers for the second half of the fiscal 2018 will not be able to hire the needed seasonal workers due to cap limitations. The issue at hand is trying to get a ‘Returning Worker Exemption’ piece added back to the H2B visa program so businesses can secure their labor force at the right time to successfully plan and run their business as needed.
What I have learned from my trips to Washington is that nothing seems to move very fast, nor with much urgency. If you don’t have a lot of financial support to grease the right wheels, it can be hard to get action when it is needed most. We came away with some positive feedback and we know they are hearing us. With over 200 of us walking around that day, people did take notice. Now, we are keeping our fingers crossed that legislators will take some action. If you would like to know more about the H2B program; how it works, who is eligible and how you can help, please feel free to reach out to me. I am always happy to talk about it.
As I write this letter, the sun is finally shining and the forecast calls for warmer temperatures this week. Spring is on its way. I know Joel is chomping at the bit to get outside. He has been cooped up way too long. As the office staff would say, we are ready for him to get outside.
Molly John SOURCE: https://zerowastehome.com
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