Only time will tell how the novel coronavirus pandemic has hurt people, companies and organizations throughout Northern New York.
Tourism plays an essential role in sustaining our economy. Even though the state has loosened some stay-at-home mandates, it’s uncertain how well this industry will fare this season.
U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, publicly expressed her concerns about how potential decisions by the federal government could adversely affect some businesses further.
“Many north country seasonal businesses rely on the H-2B non-immigrants seasonal guest worker program to sustain the levels of work they need completed to stay in business,” Ms. Stefanik said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Reports that the administration is considering suspending the issuance of H-2B visas are concerning. Seasonal businesses are a critical part of our north country economy, and this potential suspension would have dire consequences for these businesses during an already turbulent time.”
The H-2B program allows “employers to temporarily hire non-immigrants to perform non-agricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peakload need or intermittent need,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “The H-2B program requires the employer to attest to the Department of Labor that it will offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or local minimum wage to the H-2B non-immigrant worker for the occupation in the area of intended employment during the entire period of the approved H-2B labor certification. The H-2B program also establishes certain recruitment and displacement standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers.”
Ms. Stefanik was among nearly 40 legislators to sign a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that the administration permit this program to continue without revisions.
“On behalf of the thousands of small and seasonal businesses in our districts that are struggling in this unprecedented and uncertain economic climate, we respectfully urge you to refrain from imposing any further restriction on the H-2B nonimmigrant seasonal guest worker program as part of any forthcoming executive action relating to immigration and/or economic recovery,” stated the letter. “As you can understand, this pandemic has impacted the various economic sectors differently. While many are faced with reduced customers and degraded markets, others are struggling to meet customer demand due to seasonal labor challenges. To aid in our nation’s efforts towards full economic recovery, we feel it prudent to ensure the utmost flexibility exists to assist our seasonal business constituents in their efforts to maintain operations and begin to recover from the economic fallout associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The H-2B program serves as a critical safety net for companies to meet their seasonal labor needs when there are not … sufficient American workers available to meet the demand for these temporary yet relatively high paying jobs. Should any recommendation pursuant to the proclamation include restrictions on the already heavily regulated H-2B visa program, such actions run the risk of harming American businesses as well as undermining the continued job security of full time U.S. workers in seasonal sectors. From a broader perspective, it is likely that additional restrictions on the H-2B program will unnecessarily hinder ongoing economic recovery efforts across the country.”
This was the correct position to take, and we commend Ms. Stefanik and her colleagues in making the effort to preserve this initiative. The administration should keep the program as it is to avoid additional harm to businesses.