Carper Backs Proposal to Help Businesses with Seasonal Workers

Senate Approves Bill to Increase Number of H-2B Workers

WASHINGTON (April 19, 2005) – The Senate today approved legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would help Delaware businesses acquire additional seasonal workers, particularly in the spring and summer months. The legislation, which passed on a 94-6 vote, would allow more workers to receive the so-called H-2B visas to work in the United States. Currently, only 66,000 H-2B visas can be granted per fiscal year. But because the fiscal year begins in October, employers who use summer labor, such as Delaware’s tourism and beach industry, landscapers, and construction and masonry companies, are essentially denied a chance to use the program. For the past two years, the 66,000 cap has been reached just a few months into the fiscal year. In order to obtain H-2B visas for their workers, employers must demonstrate that they attempted but were unable to find American workers. Employees receiving H-2B visas must return home after their seasonal labor is complete. They must then reapply for the visa program the following year, provided that, again, the employer demonstrates that U.S. workers were not available. The legislation approved by the Senate, “The Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act of 2005,” would not raise the 66,000 cap but would instead create a 2-year fix by exempting returning workers (who have used the H-2B program in one of the past three years) from being counted toward the cap. If signed into law, this legislation would allow Delaware employers, many of whom hire the same workers year after year, to bring back former employees for work this spring and summer season – after completing the visa process and demonstrating that they could not find American laborers. Furthermore, beginning next year, the bill would create a visa allocation system in which half of the 66,000 visas under the cap would be available during the winter months and half during the summer months. “This bill represents a common-sense solution to a major headache faced by many Delaware businesses,” said Carper. “If companies can’t find American workers, they should be allowed to bring in foreign workers to do the job and keep our businesses strong and healthy.” The legislation was attached to a broader spending package designed to cover the ongoing military expenses in Iraq. That bill is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the week.