35,000 Temporary Foreign Worker Visas Receive Praise Among Maine Seasonal Business Owners

The issuance of an additional 35,000 temporary visas for foreign workers is drawing praise from seasonal business owners in Maine. Maine’s hotels and restaurants are in desperate need of help. Hospitality Maine said that in good years, before COVID-19, the state of Maine might get between 2,000 and 2,500 foreign workers with H-2B visas in hand, but not as many in the past two years. “A lot of bed last year,” said Sarah Diment, owner of the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit. Diment’s family has owned the sprawling, 68-room beachfront inn for 80 years. For the past 17 years, it has brought in foreign workers to supplement its staff of 55 people. Diment typically got eight to 10 H-2B workers, mostly from Jamaica. They are mothers. They are breadwinners. They are the head of the family. If they get a visa and they come to work, they are literally supporting their extended family,” Diment said. There were no foreign workers in the past two years. years, with COVID-19 being blamed for it. Diment knows how to file all the right documents. She thinks she could get six or seven H-2B visa holders this year. They hold extended visas and are currently in that country. Whether it will get new foreign workers remains to be seen, but Diment said there is one better than none. “A person is someone who helps us every day to make sure someone else isn’t carrying a heavy load,” Diment said. “It’s a morale boost for the employees who are here, and it’s one more person to help.” The fight has been so tough for the past two years. Diment said she only has four housekeepers on her staff. She was forced to close some of the rooms because she didn’t have the staff to take care of them even though the reservations were coming in.” We work as a team here. Right now my maintenance and reception are all involved in the household, which is my critical area, so one person makes all the difference,” Diment said.Down the street at Barnacle Billy’s, another Perkins Cove stalwart, they’re gearing up for opening day next Friday. They rely primarily on international students on J-1 visas to help fill the void. Those workers are easier to get, said manager Matt Pedersen. “Even having four or five of them is huge here,” said Pedersen. Barnacle Billy’s restaurant was so busy last year, but they didn’t have enough staff. They had to close one of the restaurants two days a week. “In a normal year, I would be 65 , 70 kids on my schedule here in the middle of summer,” Pedersen said. “I feel like in the last few years I’ve been lucky to have 35 or 40.” This year, Pedersen said he has eight or nine foreign students on J-1 visas pending and is expected to arrive before Memorial Day. He said they came from everywhere. “In recent years we had a lot of Romanians. Before it was a lot of Bulgarians. Last year we had a guy from Egypt. I don’t know how he got here, but we were happy to have it,” Pederson said.

The issuance of an additional 35,000 temporary visas for foreign workers is drawing praise from seasonal business owners in Maine.

Maine’s hotels and restaurants are in desperate need of help.

Hospitality Maine said that in good years, before COVID-19, the state of Maine might receive between 2,000 and 2,500 foreign workers with H-2B visas in hand, but not as many in the past two years.

“A lot of bed made in the last year,” said Sarah Diment, owner of the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit.

Diment’s family has owned the sprawling, 68-room beachfront inn for 80 years.
For the past 17 years, it has brought in foreign workers to supplement its staff of 55 people. Diment typically got eight to 10 H-2B workers, mostly from Jamaica.

“They’re mothers. They’re breadwinners. They’re the breadwinner. If they get a visa and they come to work, they’re literally supporting their extended family,” Diment said.

There have been no foreign workers for the past two years, with COVID-19 being blamed for that. Diment knows how to file all the right documents. She thinks she could get six or seven H-2B visa holders this year. They hold extended visas and are currently in that country. Whether it will get new foreign workers remains to be seen, but Diment said there is even one better than none.

“A person is someone who helps us every day to make sure someone else isn’t carrying a heavy load,” Diment said. “It’s a moral boost for the employees who are here, and it’s one more person to help.”

The fight has been so tough for the past two years. Diment said she only has four housekeepers on her staff. She was forced to close a section of rooms because she didn’t have the staff to take care of them even though reservations were coming in.

“We work as a team here. Right now my housekeeping and front desk are all involved in housekeeping, which is my critical area, so one person makes all the difference,” Diment said.

Down the street at Barnacle Billy’s, another Perkins Cove mainstay, they’re gearing up for opening next Friday. They rely primarily on international students on J-1 visas to help fill the void. Those workers are easier to get, manager Matt Pedersen said.

“Even having four or five is huge here,” Pedersen said.

Barnacle Billy’s restaurant was so busy last year, but they didn’t have enough staff. They had to close one of the restaurants two days a week.

“In a normal year, I would have 65 to 70 kids on my schedule here in the middle of the summer,” Pedersen said. “I feel like in the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be 35 or 40.”

This year, Pedersen said he has eight or nine foreign students on J-1 visas in the process and is expected to arrive before Memorial Day. He said they came from everywhere.

“In recent years we had a lot of Romanians. Before it was a lot of Bulgarians. Last year we had a man from Egypt. I don’t know how he got here, but we were happy to have it,” he added. Pederson said.

Business owners said they will know more in the coming weeks about how many visas will come.

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