The Midwest resort town of Branson, Mo. is turning to American workers to fill its seasonal jobs rather than rely on the less-predictable H-2B low-skilled guest worker program. A new report from the Washington Post highlights the efforts that resort-town business owners, like those in Branson, are making in advance of the busy summer season.
Business owners in Branson plan to bring at least 1,000 American workers from areas with higher unemployment rates, including workers from Puerto Rico, to fill its seasonal jobs.
In 2017, Branson business owners petitioned the federal government for 475 H-2B low-skilled guest worker visas. The H-2B guest worker program allows businesses to sponsor foreign workers to fill seasonal or temporary jobs. The annual cap is 66,000. But Branson businesses only received 70 H-2B foreign workers last year, according to the Washington Post's report. And that was in a year where the Department of Homeland Security provided an additional 15,000 H-2B visas on top of the 66,000 after receiving authorization from Congress.
After last year, President of Branson’s Chamber of Commerce Jeff Seifried said businesses began making plans to recruit American workers from other parts of the country to create a more reliable workforce.
The House of Representatives could vote on an omnibus spending bill as early as next week. Congress must pass a spending bill by March 23 to avoid a government shutdown. Congress has used past omnibus spending bills, including one past in 2017, to increase the number of H-2B visas. In FY2015, Congress allowed returning H-2B foreign workers to not count towards the annual cap. Then, in FY2017, Congress authorized the DHS Secretary to increase the cap if there was enough demand for the guest worker visas. Then-DHS Sec. John Kelly increased the cap by 15,000, but employers failed to file enough petitions to fill all the slots.
For more on this story, see the Washington Post.
Updated: Thu, Mar 8th 2018 @ 2:24pm EST