Seasonal employers turn to H2-B program after low unemployment makes finding workers difficult

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The grass is starting to grow across St. Louis and there’s a growing worry for lawn care businesses. As the unemployment rate drops it gets harder to find seasonal workers. Lawn companies advertise year-round for workers. Many turn to the H2-B program which allows employers to temporarily hire workers from other countries for non-agriculture work.

“It is required that we run ads and that we actually recruit from Americans. So, at that point, we go out and recruit. If I’m asking for 20 people and I get two it means I can only bring an 18,” said Dowco Enterprises owner Maurice Dowell.

This year about 100,000 employers asked for worker visas. The government is expected to only grant about 66,000, and it’s a lottery system.

“I have $500,000 worth of pre-paid work. Contracts that people have paid me already to do. I don’t have a workforce so I have to cover those clients. So, I’m hiring subcontractors to do that work until or if my man shows up,” said Horstmann Brothers LLC owner Paul Horstmann.

Employers admit the demand for workers drives up the pay for both American workers and the vetted seasonal workers. Pay is set by the government at $15.30 an hour.

Violating the rules could mean severe fines and getting kicked out of the H2-B program.
Employers say the uncertainty in the lottery program forces them to cut back spending for equipment and materials which trickles down and it stifles growth.

They say it’s also tough on the workers and their families who don’t know if they’ll make the cut. So, many want lawmakers to make a change in the H2-B system.

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