The federal government announced Wednesday that it will increase the number of H-2B visas issued to temporary foreign workers by 65,000.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Labor said the increase, which became effective Oct. 1, will supplement the 66,000 H-2B visas normally issued each year. By increasing the number at the start of the federal government’s fiscal year, employers who could face staffing shortages next summer will have a chance to plan ahead.

Merlene Warren of Montego Bay, Jamaica, cleans a guest room at the Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit in 2013. Warren was working temporarily in the U.S. with an H-2B Visa. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a statement that the increase should help Maine small businesses deal with staffing shortages. The two had been pushing the Biden administration to make more visas available.

“As small businesses in Maine and America continue to face severe workforce shortages, these 65,000 additional H-2B visas will help our employers find the help they urgently need,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “Although this relief is welcome news to many Maine small businesses, there is still an overwhelming need given the current tight labor market and record low unemployment. We must improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine small businesses do not continue to suffer from a lack of workers.”

The Department of Homeland Security released 35,000 additional H-2B visas last spring. The temporary work visas fill staffing needs for small businesses trying to fill temporary, seasonal positions, such as tourist industry jobs. As required by law, employers must first try to hire American workers to fill open positions.

The latest H-2B supplemental includes an allocation of 20,000 visas to workers from Haiti and the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

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