35,000 temporary visas for foreign workers is receiving praise amongst seasonal business owners in Maine

The release of an additional 35,000 temporary visas for foreign workers is getting praise from seasonal business owners in Maine. Hotels and restaurants in Maine are in desperate need of help. Hospitality Maine said during the 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 so much in the last couple of years. “A lot of bed making last year,” said Sarah Diment, owner of the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit. Diment’s family has owned the sprawling 68 room oceanfront inn for 80 years. For the last 17 years, she has tapped into foreign workers to supplement her staff of 55. Diment would usually get eight to 10 H-2B workers, mostly from Jamaica. ” They’re moms. They’re family breadwinners. They’re the head of the household. If they get a visa and they come her to work, they’re literally supporting their extended families, “Diment said. There were no foreign workers in the last two years, COVID-19 being blamed for that. Diment knows how to file all the right paperwork. She thinks she might get six or seven H-2B visa holders this year. They are holding extended visas and are currently in this country. Whether she gets any new foreign workers remains to be seen but Diment said even one better than none. “One person is someone who is assisting us every day in making sure someone else isn’t carrying a heavy load,” Diment said. “It’s a morale boost for the employees that are here, and it is one more person to help.” The struggle was so bad over the last two years. Diment said right now, she has just four housekeepers on staff. She was forced to close a section of rooms because she didn’t have the staff to tend to them even though reservations were coming in. “We work as a team here. Right now, my maintenance and my front desk are all involved in housekeeping , which is my critical area, so one person makes all the difference, “Diment said. Down the road at Barnacle Billy’s, another mainstay in Perkins Cove, they are getting ready for the opening day next Friday. They rely mostly on foreign students with J-1 visas to help fill the gap. Those workers are easier to get, said manager Matt Pedersen. “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 normal year I would have 65, 70 kids on my schedule here in the middle of the summer,” Pedersen said. “I feel like in recent years, I’m lucky to be 35 or 40.” This year, Pedersen said he has eight or nine foreign students with J-1 visas in the process and should arrive before Memorial Day. He said they come from all over. “Recent years, we’ve had a lot of Romanians. It used to be a lot of Bulgarians. Last year we had a guy from Egypt. I’m not sure how he got here, but We were happy to have him, “Pederson said. Business owners said they will know more in the next few weeks as to how many visa workers will come.

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

Hotels and restaurants in Maine are in desperate need of help.

Hospitality Maine said during the 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 so much in the last couple of years.

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

Diment’s family has owned the sprawling 68 room oceanfront inn for 80 years.
For the last 17 years, she has tapped into foreign workers to supplement her staff of 55. Diment would usually get eight to 10 H-2B workers, mostly from Jamaica.

“They’re moms. They’re family breadwinners. They’re the head of the household. If they get a visa and they come her to work, they’re literally supporting their extended families,” Diment said.

There were no foreign workers in the last two years, COVID-19 being blamed for that. Diment knows how to file all the right paperwork. She thinks she might get six or seven H-2B visa holders this year. They are holding extended visas and are currently in this country. Whether she gets any new foreign workers remains to be seen but Diment said even one better than none.

“One person is someone who is assisting us every day in making sure that someone else isn’t carrying a heavy load,” Diment said. “It’s a morale boost for the employees that are here, and it’s one more person to help.”

The struggle was so bad over the last two years. Diment said right now, she has just four housekeepers on staff. She was forced to close a section of rooms because she didn’t have the staff to tend to them even though reservations were coming in.

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

Down the road at Barnacle Billy’s, another mainstay in Perkins Cove, they are getting ready for the opening day next Friday. They rely mostly on foreign students with J-1 visas to help fill the gap. Those workers are easier to get, said manager Matt Pedersen.

“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 normal year I would have 65, 70 kids on my schedule here in the middle of the summer,” Pedersen said. “I feel like in recent years, I’m lucky to have 35 or 40.”

This year, Pedersen said he has eight or nine foreign students with J-1 visas in the process and should arrive before Memorial Day. He said they come from all over.

“Recent years, we’ve had a lot of Romanians. It used to be a lot of Bulgarians. Last year we had a guy from Egypt. I’m not sure how he got here, but we were happy to have him,” Pederson said.

Business owners said they will know more in the next few weeks as to how many visa workers will come.

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