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Congress Defers Action on H-2B Program Until After Midterm Elections

Thursday, October 11, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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Landscape WorkersWASHINGTON, D.C. - The H-2B returning worker provision and some modest H-2B reforms did not make it into the FY2019 federal appropriations bills, as PLNA had hoped.

In July, the House Appropriations Committee agreed by voice vote to reinstate the H-2B returning worker provision in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) appropriation bill. This provision could more than double the number of H-2B visas available to companies needing guest workers, including landscape contractors.

Appropriations Bills, Except DHS

In late September, the House and Senate sent several appropriations bills to the President’s desk for signature, encompassing most of the federal bureaucracy. However, the DHS appropriation, in which the returning worker provision was inserted, was not among them.

Rather, the DHS appropriation was handled by continuing resolution within the Department of Defense appropriation, which means that the appropriation for DHS will continue at the same level as last fiscal year, until it expires on December 7, 2018.

Trump Threatens Government Shutdown

President Trump had threatened in early September to shut down the federal government if he did not receive his requested $25 billion for a border wall. That $25 billion was not in the House or Senate versions of the DHS appropriations bill.

Congress punted, with the President’s agreement, to fight that battle later this year. No one it seemed, including the President, wanted the spectacle of a government shutdown just weeks before the November 6 midterm elections.

Congress to Take Up DHS Appropriation After Midterms

House Republicans say that their intention is to take up the DHS appropriation, as well as those of the Departments of Justice, Commerce and State, after the midterm elections. This could make it a bit easier to get the H-2B reforms and the returning worker provision into the bill and passed without the pressure of a looming election. Maybe.

The Current Returning Worker Provision

The returning worker provision in the current DHS appropriations bill would:

  • Exempt H-2B workers from the 66,000 annual cap if they received any H-2B visas during one of the previous two fiscal years. This could double the number of H-2B visas available to employers;
  • Allocate the 66,000 visas for new H-2B workers on a quarterly basis to assist employers whose seasons do not align well with the current biannual allocation; and
  • Create a system in which 66,000 H-2B visas for new workers would be allocated on a proportional basis if the cap is reached, so all employers will receive a percentage of H-2B workers they had requested.

Now is the time to Talk to Your Congressman and Senators

We have less than thirty days until the midterm elections, a time when our elected representatives in Congress will be most open to hearing our stories about the importance of the H-2B program and the returning worker provision to our companies and American employees.

Go to the National Association of Landscape Professionals website to contact your Congressmen and Senators.

It’s important that each of us put pressure on our Congressmen and Senators to keep the returning worker provision in the final bill. They will be home frequently over the next thirty days to campaign and ask for your vote. Take advantage of them being in your community to meet with them personally.

We have less than 30 days to do this, and the clock is ticking…

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