Vermont’s Workforce Shortage Could Benefit from Expediting J-1 Visa Applications

Vermont’s Workforce Shortage Could Benefit from Expediting J-1 Visa Applications

This week, the Vermont Chamber worked with longtime member The Tyler Place to advocate for an expedited process for J-1 Visas for eight workers from the United Kingdom that are critical to the success of this multi-generation family resort that hosts nearly 70 families each week, employing hundreds of staff.

Vermont’s aging demographics have been a concern for years, and the pandemic has increased the hiring woes for employers. Unemployment numbers show 30,000 fewer Vermonters in the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, with one third of those fully retired from the workforce. Many businesses express optimism for a robust tourism season for summer and fall, however, they are also concerned that the ongoing workforce shortage could constrain that rebound. While the Vermont Chamber advocated to lift the work search requirement for collecting unemployment and that is now slated for mid-May, that is only one piece of a complex hiring puzzle.

A recent Washington Post article discussed this trend stating, “As vaccinated Americans start to get comfortable traveling again, popular summer destinations are anticipating a busy season. But hotel, restaurant and retail store owners warn that staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could force them to limit occupancy, curtail hours and services or shut down facilities entirely just as they’re starting to bounce back from a grim year.”

In 2019, Vermont hosted 1,792 international college students who worked in seasonal positions, providing critical support to local businesses. In 2020, only 22 participants were able to come to Vermont. Normally, over 70% of Summer Work Travel participants would have visa appointments by now. This year, it is less than 5%.

The Vermont Chamber is advocating to expedite this process so that lodging properties and other hospitality businesses across the state can take full advantage of the ability to welcome tourists this summer and fall. If you hire J-1 Visa holders, please contact Vermont Chamber Membership Engagement Director Sophia Yager to provide a status update so that we can support your business.

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Work Search Requirement Returning for UI Claimants

Work Search Requirement Returning for UI Claimants

The Vermont Department of Labor announced this week that the work search requirement for unemployment claimants will be reinstated beginning on May 9. Every week that individuals claim unemployment insurance, they will be required to conduct three qualified job contacts. Claimants with a formal return-to-work date within ten weeks of their initial claim are not obligated to search for work. The Vermont Chamber advocated for and supports the reinstatement of the work search requirement, with important exemptions for individuals who cannot safely return to work for health- or child care-related reasons. Vermont employers are currently struggling with a labor shortage across industries. The hospitality industry is short an estimated 9,000 employees.

The ability for employers across the state to rehire furloughed workers and hire new employees is critical to a successful economic restart. Even before the pandemic, Vermont’s workforce was not large enough to satisfy demand for unfilled positions. Reinstatement of the work search requirement for unemployment claimants, which was appropriately suspended for the safety of employers and employees in 2020, will help Vermont secure the workers needed for economic recovery. Specific information on the work search requirement and exemptions can be found at labor.vermont.gov. Reach out to our Government Affairs Director Charles Martin with questions.

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Vermont Chamber Supporting Bill to Expand Workforce

Vermont Chamber Supporting Bill to Expand Workforce

The Vermont Chamber testified in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on S.62, legislation intended to expand Vermont’s workforce, attract new residents to the state, and provide support to employers who are unable to fill positions from among candidates who are already located in Vermont.

The legislation specifically authorizes the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to award relocation grants for qualifying expenses of up to $5,000 for base grants and enhanced grants of up to $7,500 for relocating employees who become residents in certain labor areas. During testimony, the Vermont Chamber highlighted the workforce shortage crisis facing nearly every sector and emphasized the need for the Legislature to continue working to enact programs to recruit new workers to Vermont. Please contact Vermont Chamber Government Affairs Director Charles Martin with questions.

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Senate Passes Bill Limiting Agritourism Liability

Senate Passes Bill Limiting Agritourism Liability

On Thursday, the Senate passed in concurrence H.89 which makes providers of agritourism activities immune from civil liability if a participant is injured as a result of risks inherent in the activity and the provider has posted a warning about those risks.

The bill heads to the Governor’s desk, and if signed into law would align Vermont with other states and put agritourism on a level playing field with other related industries in Vermont such as equine and ski areas in terms of limiting liability. Please contact Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear with questions.

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