A bill introduced in the U.S. House Monday night aims to address restaurant staffing issues by creating a three-year nonimmigrant visa program for workers.
The National Restaurant Association on Tuesday applauded HB 7239, which would create an Essential Workers for Economic Advancement program, the group said.
“There is no silver bullet to solving the industry’s recruiting problem, but this program creates an opportunity to solve the problem,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association. based in Washington, DC.
“The overlapping blows of the pandemic and now an inflationary economy are limiting industry operations,” Kennedy noted. “For restaurants to fully recover and expand, we need to be open at full capacity – and to do that, we need to continue to grow our workforce. This program is a win-win solution for employers who are in desperate need of employees and people looking for training and opportunities. »
The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement (EWEA) program, created under the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, is intended for small businesses in industries with relatively low sales per employee. It would be available for non-agricultural jobs with lower education thresholds that have not been filled for long periods.
EWEA would initially be available for up to 65,000 workers. After the first year, the number of workers would be determined by market needs. The number of workers in the program could not exceed 85,000.
Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), a sponsor of the bill, said: “The Essential Economic Advancement Workers Act addresses a pressing problem for a host of industries that is holding back economic growth – a shortage chronicle of workers. Restaurants are vital drivers in every community, so I appreciate the National Restaurant Association’s continued input and support in bringing this legislation to fruition.
Kennedy added, “We look forward to working with Congress to pass this critical tool to help the industry address its labor shortage.”
The National Restaurant Association said the restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, behind health care, with a workforce of more than 14 million people in nearly a million d food and drink establishments.
The association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report surveyed operators and found that around half of respondents expected recruiting and retaining employees to be their biggest challenge This year.
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