Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Chuck Schumer - Seasonal Worker Relief in Funding Agreement


By: John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, Joe Manchin III, Mark Warner, Mike Rounds, Tim Scott, Ron Wyden, Rob Portman, Jeanne Shaheen, Kevin Cramer, Thom Tillis, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Angus King, Jr., Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Jerry Moran, Todd Young, James Risch, Mike Crapo, Johnny Isakson, Chris Coons, Tom Carper, Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Doug Jones, Dan Sullivan, Lisa Murkowski, David McKinley, Dan Newhouse, Peter Welch, Morgan Griffith, Rob Wittman, John Curtis, Chris Stewart, Filemon Vela, Jr., John Carter, Henry Cuellar, Roger Williams, Bill Flores, Vicente Gonzalez, Randy Weber, Sr., Kay Granger, Mike Conaway, Michael McCaul, David Kustoff, Dusty Johnson, Tom Rice, Ralph Norman, Jr., Joe Wilson, Sr., Lloyd Smucker, Matt Cartwright, Susan Wild, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, Anthony Gonzalez, Steve Stivers, Dave Joyce, Bob Gibbs, Bill Johnson, Bob Latta, Brad Wenstrup, Steve Chabot, Chris Collins, Elise Stefanik, Tom Malinowski, Joshua Gottheimer, Annie Kuster, Chris Pappas, Donald Bacon, Kelly Armstrong, Steven Palazzo, Michael Guest, Roger Wicker, Billy Long, Vicky Hartzler, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ann Wagner, Peter Stauber, Tom Emmer, Paul Mitchell, Tim Walberg, Fred Upton, John Moolenaar, Bill Huizenga, Jack Bergman, Dutch Ruppersberger, Andy Harris, Bill Keating, Garret Graves, Ralph Abraham, Clay Higgins, Andy Barr, Thomas Massie, Brett Guthrie, Ron Estes, Steven Watkins, Jr., Roger Marshall, Larry Bucshon, Susan Brooks, Adam Kinzinger, John Shimkus, Rodney Davis, Mike Bost, Robin Kelly, Barry Loudermilk, Jody Hice, Rob Woodall, Lucy McBath, Brian Mast, John Rutherford, Ted Yoho, Neal Dunn, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow, Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck, Scott Tipton, Diana DeGette, Ken Calvert, David Schweikert, Bruce Westerman, Donald Young, Chellie Pingree
Date: Jan. 23, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McConnell, McCarthy and Schumer:

We write to you today regarding the H-2B temporary guest worker program. As all of you are aware, we have been working in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion for years to find an acceptable, permanent legislative solution to the problems plaguing this program. Our work has had one goal: to provide the appropriate amount of non-immigrant, temporary workers needed to supplement our American workforce and sustain our economy.

As recent filings show, there is no doubt that the statutory cap of 66,000, which was set more than three decades ago, is wholly inadequate to meet the demands of today's seasonal businesses.
Recently, due to the strong national economy, employers have struggled to find U.S. workers for seasonal positions which are, on average, 6-9 month jobs. As such, there has been a marked uptick in the number of seasonal employers that, as a last resort, turn to the H-2B guest worker program for the employees they need to sustain their businesses during peak times. This increased demand, coupled with Congress's inability to meaningfully reform the program to meet the economy's needs, has caused an increasingly urgent issue of visa scarcity where employers are simply unable to attain sufficient workers to meet their labor demands.

In fact, this year, shortly after midnight on January 1, 2019, the Department of Labor's iCERT system, through which employers seeking H-2B workers request temporary labor certifications --a necessary step in the H-2B application process--was inundated with a record number of requests and almost immediately crashed. In the brief moments before system failure, iCERT received in excess of 97,000 applications for the 33,000 available visas for the second half of the fiscal year. The iCERT System's failure is a direct and predictable result of Congress' inability to address the insufficient availability of H-2B visas.

If significant and permanent H-2B cap relief is not provided, there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and our economy generally. Several seasonal businesses denied access to the program due to the insufficient cap have already been forced to scale back their operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers, and, in some cases, shutter their operations entirely. Continuing with the status quo of failing to reform the H-2B program will only result in more closures or scale backs for these businesses. In any agreement to end the current partial lapse in government funding, we owe our constituents, and seasonal business owners relying on this vital program, a thoughtful and lasting legislative solution to the H-2B visa shortage.

We look forward to working with you on this issue, and we are hopeful that you will include a meaningful solution to the H-2B guest worker shortage in any government funding agreement.