Maine resorts struggling with lack of seasonal employees
OGUNQUIT (WGME) -- Resorts in cities and towns along the coast of Maine are gearing up for the summer season, and some resort owners say they're worried about getting seasonal summer help.
“The last 3-5 years have been the worst I have ever seen in trying to find and keep seasonal help," Sarah Diment, the owner of the Beachmere Inn, said.
She says her Inn receives a lot of seasonal help through the federal H2B Visa Program. This program allows a set amount of out-of-country workers to apply for work visas which allow them to work seasonal jobs all across the country.
“The H2B Program is really important to the tourism industry in Maine. One of the Maine reasons it supports that industry is it allows people to have a seasonal workforce when they can’t find a local workforce,” Allyson Cavaretta, co-owner of the Meadowmere Resort, said.
She says that the biggest problem with the program is the number of visas currently allowed by the federal government, and that every year, more and more application requests are being denied.
“We’re about 1/3 of the way there for our seasonal staff. I mean, we're looking for cap relief, we’re hearing that something will be done soon, and we’re really hoping that kicks in,” Cavaretta said.
Diment says that a denial can be extremely detrimental to a business that relies on summer relief.
“In terms of what you see now, it's because of such a historically low unemployment time,” Diment said.
She says that locals don't apply for the seasonal jobs because they would rather work a full-time position, or because they don't want to work the jobs that are available.
“There’s a little less demand for the new employee to go in to housekeeping. It’s hard even finding someone to do busing or waitering," Diment said.
She says Beachmere already has their visas approved for this summer, but says last year the resort struggled when they were denied.
“We paid a ton of overtime, which is a wonderful thing for a couple weeks, and then I’ll tell you, people don’t like having to work overtime every week that’s not for their them and their families when Mom’s not home or Dad’s not working 10 hour days instead of 8 hour days," Diment said.
She says Beachmere had to close off some rooms because they didn't have the staff to clean them.
"I managed everyday what rooms we were going to allow to be released or what were going to be sold, and what we could do as a team in house. It’s an awful way to run your business it’s like shutting a wing of your restaurant down and saying I know those ten tables are empty but you can’t sit there," Diment said.
Cavaretta says she is hoping that the federal government will raise the cap of visas allowed so that they can re-apply, but she says that needs to happen sooner or later or they won't be able to get workers to Maine until August.
“That takes time. So everyday it kicks it further and further down the road that we are able to provide that relief," Cavaretta said.
Diment says more Mainers should be concerned about the lack of room the H2B program provides, because the seasonal workers put a lot of money back into the area.
“This isn't immigration, this isn't about people coming to stay, this is a workforce of people who work on a seasonal basis, and they’re helping businesses in this state who don’t have employees,” Diment said.
The H2B program effects resorts, hotels, restaurants, and other seasonal businesses.