NALP applauds the introduction of the Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), which represents an industry that employs nearly 1 million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care professionals, applauded Reps. Cuellar (D-TX), Joyce (R-OH), Keating (D-MA) Pingree (D-ME), Chabot (R-OH), and Harris (R-MD) for introducing the bipartisan Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021. This legislation would enact much needed H-2B reforms and cap relief through a returning worker exception while also providing integrity measures that protect U.S. workers and foreign seasonal H-2B workers while in the United States.

“We applaud Representative’s Cuellar, Joyce and Keating for their leadership on pushing for much needed permanent H-2B reforms,” stated Britt Wood, CEO NALP.  “As the single largest user of the H-2B program the landscape industry has been in a work force crisis for many years and the uncertainty and antiquated 66,000 cap has exacerbated the crisis.” He continued, “now is the time to enact a permanent bipartisan solution that provides certainty for landscape professionals to grow their businesses, support their U.S. workers and service their customers.”

The Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021 makes several permanent changes to the H-2B program. The first being reenacting the returning worker exemption that would exempt returning workers from counting against the 66,000 cap if the H-2B worker is a returning worker in any one of the previous three fiscal years.  The returning worker exception was part of the program from 2005 – 2007 and then again in 2017.  Additionally, both the Biden and Trump administration made the returning worker exception a prerequisite to accessing the supplemental cap in each of the previous four years.

Other provisions within the legislation propose to improve efficiencies with the application process by requiring a single digital platform while also requiring the Department of Labor to maintain a publicly accessible online job registry. The Act would also strengthen program integrity measures and anti-fraud provisions to increase DOL investigations, fines and even permanent disqualification from the H-2B program for willful violations. Lastly, the Act would address misconduct by foreign recruiters and also strengthen workers safety standards for H-2B employees while in the United States. 

“Introducing the Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021 is only the first step, now we must mobilize the landscape industry and all the other seasonal businesses that rely on the H-2B program during this difficult work force crisis,” explained Andrew Bray, VP of government relations NALP.  “We again thank our champions for introducing the legislation and we look forward to working with both sides of the aisle in the House and the Senate to push this legislation across the finish line and enact permanent H-2B reforms for the landscape industry.”

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