Maine’s Labor Shortage Reaching Crisis Levels – Congress Should Act

A July 7, 2019 article in the Portland Press Herald highlights the growing labor shortage impacting Maine’s businesses, particularly those in the hospitality industry and other sectors that rely on seasonal labor.  In case you missed it, you can read it here.

Steve Hewins of Hospitality Maine sounded the alarm in the article, stating “I always refer to tourism as kind of the tip of the spear of economic development, because it’s the thing that introduces people to Maine, perhaps to relocate here, perhaps to move a company here or work here,” he said. “So if we have a problem handling that, it’s going to impact beyond just hospitality.”

Dana Connors, CEO of MeBIC partner the Maine State Chamber of Commerce added that “in a recent survey of about 1,200 Maine businesses….three of the top five problems cited by respondents were workforce-related. The problem isn’t limited to any one industry or region of the state.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Maine residents holding DACA or TPS status who are living and working here legally have only court orders standing between them and the loss of their legal status and the requirement to leave the U.S.    Nationwide, about 1.1 million others are in their same position.    The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, that would provide a path to permanent residency for them.   Maine businesses should tell our Senators to take up companion legislation as one step towards stemming Maine’s, and the nation’s demographic and labor crisis.

Additionally, Maine’s recently arrived asylum seekers want to work but federal laws prevent them from doing so for at least 180 days after they apply for asylum.   Maine’s Representative Chellie Pingree has introduced legislation to allow issuance of work permits 30 days after filing for asylum.   Maine needs workers, and immigrants, including asylum seekers, want to work.  Congress should make that happen.