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With Seasonal Hiring Pressure In N.H., Shaheen Pushes For Answers On Temporary Worker Visas

Many seasonal businesses in New Hampshire take advantage of temporary worker visas to fill open jobs. But as the summer tourism season approaches, employers say they're still understaffed.

Russ Hart owns Hart’s Turkey Farm restaurant in Meredith. He's requested 18 temporary H-2B visas for the busy season but so far only has eight.

The lack of workers isn’t a big problem yet, but Hart expects it will be after Memorial Day. “We will have an issue once we get into June, though,” Hart says. “There's definitely not enough help here and I'm hearing the same thing from other restaurants and hospitality people.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson on the H-2B issue yesterday.

“What can I tell these businesses who are desperately calling to say 'What are we going to do about workers?'” Shaheen said. “Because we don't know what the government is going to do.”

Currently the H-2B visa cap is set at 66,000 nationally, but federal officials have authority to nearly double that.

Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement last month stating his concerns that the visa cap could have detrimental effects on New Hampshire’s economy.

"With unemployment currently at 2.6%, New Hampshire has a tight labor market and it is critical for small seasonal businesses to have access to H-2B visas in order to meet their workforce needs," Sununu said in the statement.

Nielson said a decision on H-2B visas should be issued “very shortly.”