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H-2B Letter to the Hill on Cap Relief

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H-2B Workforce Coalition

Protecting American Workers Through a Stable and Reliable Seasonal Workforce |

April 24, 2023

The Honorable Patty Murray
Senate Appropriations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Susan Collins
Vice Chair
Senate Appropriations Committee
United States Sente
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Kay Granger
House Appropriations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairs Murray and Granger, Vice Chair Collins, and Ranking Member DeLauro:

As representatives of small and seasonal employers throughout the country, the H-2B Workforce Coalition urges you to include an H-2B returning worker exemption, or other meaningful H-2B cap relief, in the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. Without Congressional action, many employers across the country will be without the critical workforce they need to operate this spring and summer. These businesses may not be able to fulfill contracts. They could be forced to turn away customers, lay off American workers whose jobs are supported by H-2B workers, and in some cases shut down their operations entirely.

In a strong economy with low unemployment, the program’s congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 visas is inadequate to meet the seasonal needs of small businesses. The supplemental visas authorized by Congress and made available by the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2023 in a December 15, 2022 rule were extremely helpful in meeting some of the needs of seasonal employers. However, the application process was still unpredictable, and it left many employers without workers for the early parts of their season. This required many employers to use time and resources to re-submit petitions to the Department of Homeland Security in hopes of being able to hire H-2B workers this year.

For FY 2023, the 33,000 first half cap was met on September 12, 2022, and the 33,000 second half cap was met on February 27, 2023. The supplemental visa cap for returning workers needed between April 1 and May 15 was reached on March 30. As of April 18, 2023, DOL has certified the bona fide need for 95,079 H-2B workers with 26,433 pending worker positions pending. DOL only issues a final labor certification when it concludes that:

  • There are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and who will be available to perform the temporary services or labor for which an employer desires to hire foreign workers, and;
  • The employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • We also encourage Congress to continue the H-2B regulatory provisions that have been included in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill since Fiscal Year 2016.

The H-2B program is essential to employers who cannot find local temporary workers to fill jobs in seafood processing, horse training, hospitality and amusement parks, forestry, landscaping, circuses, carnivals, food concessionaires, swimming pool maintenance, golf courses, stone quarries and other seasonal industries. Most of these seasonal businesses need H-2B workers to supplement their American workforce.

The H-2B program relies on well-vetted returning workers who come to the U.S. for seasonal employment and then go home. These workers are not immigrants. They provide an opportunity for U.S. businesses to operate at a greater capacity, retain their full-time workers and contribute to their local economies. Seasonal workers help support many upstream and downstream jobs. Every H-2B worker is estimated to create and sustain 4.64 American jobs.

The fate of seasonal businesses and their domestic workforce should not be dependent upon a lottery. Seasonal businesses need meaningful cap relief so they can continue to generate economic growth and job creation for American workers across the country. We urge you to include H-2B cap relief in the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill and continue the long-standing H-2B regulatory relief provisions in the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Health and Human Services, Labor and Education appropriations bill.