Appropriations and H-2B

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How Congress ends up funding the federal government will determine whether we see an H-2B seasonal worker visa fix in time for 2020. For this reason, we’re providing frequent status updates.

The House and Senate recently passed, and the President has signed, a bill that sets federal government spending limits for the next two years and raises the debt ceiling. The agreement lessens the chances of a government shut down on October 1, when fiscal 2020 begins. While the budget deal paves the way for Congress to complete action on annual spending bills, we still expect that Congress will need to pass one or more temporary spending measures, or continuing resolutions, to keep the federal government operating beyond the start of the fiscal year.

On June 19, the House of Representatives passed an FY 2020 spending package that includes funding for the Department of Labor (DOL). The spending bill would allow for H-2B visas to be allocated proportionally on a quarterly basis.

House leaders have not yet decided if or when they will bring the Department of Homeland Security funding bill to the floor due to controversial issues related to border wall funding, migrant detention, etc. That bill, which was passed the by the House Appropriations Committee in June, modifies the current H-2B cap discretionary language to take away some of the discretion from DHS about releasing additional visas. The fiscal 2017, 2018 and 2019 DHS appropriations bills said that DHS “may” release up to 69,320 visas if it determines that the needs of seasonal businesses cannot be met with American workers. The bill just passed by the House states that DHS “shall” release up to 69,320 visas if it determines that the needs of seasonal businesses cannot be met with American workers.

Congress is currently on recess for the month of August. Once lawmakers return from this district work period, we expect to the Senate Appropriations Committee to begin taking up spending bills to fund various government agencies. AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition are encouraging Senate leaders to include the same H-2B-related provisions that are included in the House DOL and DHS funding bills.

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