Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, has introduced a bipartisan bill to help seasonal workers navigate the H-2B non-agricultural visa program. The Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2015 will help small businesses meet their need for seasonal employees and better respond to fluctuations in demand, according to a statement from Mikulski’s office.
Mikulski introduced the bill on Friday with Sens. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana.
The H-2B program is vital to small and seasonal employers across the country who depend on temporary workers to sustain their businesses and supplement their existing American workforce. The bill intends to streamline the visa program and set clear parameters for employers hiring H-2B workers, require increased coordination between federal agencies and make the process more efficient while making sure American workers are not displaced.
Mikulski has been an advocate of this bill as a way to help Maryland’s seafood industry, which uses the H-2B visa program to attract seasonal labor to help pick crab meat on the Eastern Shore.
“Maryland’s seafood industry is critical for jobs on the Eastern Shore and for our way of life. From harvesting crabs to shucking oysters, temporary and seasonal workers ensure Maryland’s seafood industry continues to prosper,” Mikulski said in a statement. “The legislation provides certainty and ends unnecessary hardships in order to support Maryland jobs. Our seafood businesses deserve a government on their side.”
The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program lets U.S. employers hire immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. Employers are required to declare that there were not enough U.S. workers who were available to do the temporary work. The Department of Homeland Security typically caps the number of H-2B visas at 66,000 every year.
The senators introduced the bill in response to a suspension of the visa program that affected numerous business programs. Some 26 senators also sent a letter to the Department of Labor last week to express frustration over the H-2B labor certification process.