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HIRE Act hopes to address Valley labor shortages

Congressman David G. Valadao recently joined Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas to introduce the H-2 Improvement to Relieve Employers Act. The proposed HIRE Act improves H-2A and H-2B visa programs to make them more responsive to employer needs and makes it easier for them to address workforce shortages.

In particular, the act aims to reduce what Valadao calls the bureaucratic red tape often associated with the temporary work visa programs.

This directly impacts workers in the agricultural, construction and trucking industries, where there are the biggest labor shortages. The act will make it easier for employers to hire temporary workers and help fill some of the 9.5 million job openings currently in the country.

"Improving our temporary work visa programs will ensure employers can fill these essential roles to strengthen our economy," Valadao said.

Regarding agriculture and the visa application process, he explained, "The biggest complaint we get from farmers is that they don't have the time to do a lot of the paperwork."

"Many times, farmers must hire someone to process that, and a cost is associated. It is about $3,000 for each worker in fees, time and labor that goes into getting the paper work done."

He said the labor shortages in agriculture cause problems for farmers and their crops.

"There have been years that 20%[of the harvest] is left behind because they don't have labor to harvest it."

Valadao points to the cost of labor shortages for consumers.

"One impact is that these labor shortages affect the economy in that food prices go up."

He said it also results in being less competitive as farmers and as a country.

Valadao added that improving the temporary work visa program will help reform our broken immigration system.

"If you make the process easier and more affordable, it will allow more people to use it. For immigrant workers, it will bring them out of the shadows."

"Being an illegal employee, these people are often afraid to speak up if being abused by coworkers or employers."

Valadao said this legislation aims to make these workers more confident to share their voices without fear of deportation.

The HIRE Act expands the labor certification period from 1 year to 3 years to minimize application hurdles for employers by reducing the number of times a seasonal job needs to be certified. It would permanently authorize waiving the in-person interview requirement for trusted, returning workers who were previously thoroughly vetted to speed up the application process. And it would improve job transparency for American workers by requiring the Department of Labor to publish information related to the use of seasonal employment.

When asked if he foresees any pushback in trying to get this legislation to pass, he said, "There is always going to be pushback. It's a small fix to an overall existing program. It's a reasonable approach to how we can get it done."


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