RRF Replenishment / OSHA Updates / H-2B Visas / US Labor Department Investments
We are seeing signs of sales getting close if not reaching pre-pandemic levels for some Oregon operators. Of course sales numbers don’t tell the whole story for our restaurants given the cost of goods and the ongoing impacts of a marketplace driven by historic leverage in the hands of employees. On the lodging side it continues to be a tale of two realities with operators seeming to do quite well in secondary markets with Portland still working to find its footing with the delay in corporate/conference travel. Spring/Summer live events and the return of the full fledged Rose Festival events for a month from late May through late June will certainly help Portland turn the page.
RRF Replenishment Votes Possible in House, Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on legislation to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as early as this Wednesday. Details on the size of the bill, and whether it is funded with new government spending or reallocating existing federal dollars remain unknown. Meanwhile, if the Senate is able to reach agreement on legislation to fund COVID treatment programs, Democrats are expected to offer an amendment to replenish the RRF. Senate Republicans have been clear in calling for any COVID spending to be fully offset by cuts in other government programs, and will vote against RRF replenishment if this condition is not met.
ORLA has been working with the National Restaurant Association on your behalf to urge that Congress not treat the 177,000 restaurants waiting for COVID grants as hostages to battles over government spending. The National Restaurant Association sent a letter to the Hill this morning in support of RRF votes and posted a press release urging support from Congress. We will keep you informed if a vote occurs and when the next grassroots activation will launch.
OSHA Update on Workforce Housing
One of the many unintended consequences of agency rules during Covid was the impact of workforce housing restrictions on our resort communities around the state. Oregon OSHA was focused on preventing the spread of Covid in agricultural worker housing specifically, but their rules also prevented resorts around Oregon from housing hospitality employees within residential vacation homes. The Covid rule limited the number of workers who can be housed in resort vacation homes–and those limits did not exist for vacation travelers from different households using those same homes. ORLA pointed out this inequity over the course of the past week and thankfully Oregon OSHA responded. OSHA just released a Workplace Advisory Memo on April 1, 2022, that removes these workforce housing limitations in our industry.
American Hotel & Lodging Association President & CEO Chip Rogers (who will be joining us in person at September’s ORLA Hospitality Conference in Eugene) shared the following good news this week on H-2B Visas. A number of ORLA members utilize Visas for seasonal employment needs and expanding capacity has been a priority for the industry.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) announced they would make available an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for the second half of fiscal year 2022 (FY22), which begins April 1. Of these, 23,500 visas will be available for returning workers, while 11,500 are reserved for nationals of Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In December, for the first time ever the Departments released an additional 20,000 H-2B visas for the first half of the fiscal year. These additional visas will provide critical help to seasonal resorts as we enter the busy summer travel season, and they suggest that the Biden Administration recognizes the acute workforce shortage we are facing. AHLA will continue to push for legislation and policies that will help fill open jobs and keep us on the road to recovery.
US Labor Department Investments
This week the National Restaurant Association shared more details on President Biden’s federal budget proposal which includes an 18% increase in U.S. Department of Labor funding from 2022 levels ($2.2 billion more) with $400 million proposed to go towards the hiring of additional staff within the department’s workforce protection agencies. Here are the cliff notes from the administration's proposals that are more industry specific:
Labor & Workforce
Food Supply Chain and Competition
Technology and Competition
Access to Credit
For more information:
We look forward to sharing more about workforce development efforts in future reports. There is a lot of work going into improving connections between industry operators and high school/community college classrooms. Give us a call at 503.682.4422 if you have any questions. | ORLA