Bill to Help RI Small Businesses Hire Temporary and Seasonal Workers Approved by Senate
WASHINGTON The Senate has approved a bipartisan amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to help small businesses in Rhode Island, and throughout the nation that rely on seasonal foreign workers. The amendment was approved by a vote of 94 to 6 as part of the fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations bill.For the second year in a row, the limit set by the Department of Labor (DOL) for H2B visas of 66,000 was filled during the winter months, leaving no more for the many Rhode Island seasonal businesses that need workers in the spring and summer. Without the additional seasonal help small businesses are forced to limit services or temporarily close forcing the layoff of all workers. The bill would help these businesses get foreign workers visas by exempting workers who have participated in the H2B Visa Program in the past from the cap, reserving half of the 66,000 visas for employers needing workers this summer and creating new anti-fraud provisions.Many small businesses use the H2B visa program year after year to legally fill temporary and seasonal positions when no American workers are available.The tourism industry in Rhode Island, particularly in South County, Newport and Block Island relies heavily on the H2B visa program, Reed stated These companies hire American workers first, but they need additional help to meet the demands of the summer tourism season. The H2B visa program provides the help to allow them to stay in business.Under the legislation, employers must demonstrate to the DOL that there are no US workers available to fill seasonal vacancies before they are allowed H2B visa workers.These foreign workers are allowed temporary status only and cannot stay permanently in the United States. H2B workers fulfill a variety of short-term seasonal needs such as landscapers, seafood processors, horse trainers and resort workers. The bill provides a short term, two-year solution to the H2B visa shortage, in anticipation of comprehensive immigration reform to fix the long-term problem.