Mainers hope to see more foreign workers for seasonal positions
OGUNQUIT (WGME) -- They call it Vacationland for a reason, Maine almost quadruples in size during the summer months as tourists file in, and often stay along the coast in motels or inns.
Many businesses hire foreign workers for those seasonal positions, but they say a limited number of work visas available nationally affects their ability to hire here.
CBS 13 spoke with one woman who says this problem is drastically affecting her business, and a Maine senator is trying to help.
Sarah Diment has been using the H-2B program for more than a decade.
"In the last probably 11 years, I’ve been using the program on and off,” Diment said. “The last two or three have been excruciatingly painful."
The program provides temporary work visas to bring in low-skilled labor for non-agricultural jobs. Employers say they can't always be filled locally.
"I will always hire somebody locally first, always, every time," Diment said.
Sarah runs the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, and is in serious need of housekeeping help.
"I have a team of housekeepers who are trying to get it all done, who understand that we're leaving rooms dirty or that we're taking rooms out inventory, basically not selling rooms so that we are not stressing them so much," Diment said.
Right now she says she has five people on her housekeeping staff, but she needs eight more. This week she didn’t sell nine rooms, because her staff can’t keep up.
"It’s school vacation week, those rooms should be open, I should be selling as much as I can," Diment said.
Sarah and many others are asking for help.
Senator Angus King is just one of the legislators introducing a bill to try to solve this problem.
"Basically it says if you got in last year, you can come back this year and it doesn’t count against the quota," King said.
King says he understands Maine’s coastal businesses need foreign workers in order to create revenue.
“This is a big deal for the Maine economy and it’s something that we've gotta get fixed pronto," King said.
For Sarah, she says she needs this now more than ever.
"If we don’t get that bill passed, I’m not sure what I’m going to do," Diment said.
The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins.
It's not clear when the legislation might come up for a vote, or when it would take effect.