Legislation to Boost U.S. Workforce Introduced in Congress

A program within the legislation would allow up to 85,000, three-year visas for essential workers.

March 31, 2022

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Legislation that would create a three-year visa program for non-immigrant workers was introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year to help small businesses with staffing challenges, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.

The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement (EWEA) program, created within the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, is meant to help small essential businesses in industries with comparatively low sales per employee.

The program would fill non-agricultural jobs that have lower education thresholds and that have been vacant for extended time periods. EWEA would be available for up to 65,000 workers during the first year, after which the number of workers would be determined by market need, not exceeding 85,000.

“This development is positive,” said Doug Kantor, NACS’ general counsel. “The industry is facing a labor shortage and having more work visas is one way to help fill that gap.”

“The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act addresses a pressing problem for a host of industries that is stalling economic growth — a chronic worker shortage,” said Rep. Lloyd Smucker, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We look forward to working with Congress to pass this essential tool to help the industry address its workforce shortage.”

Hiring and retaining a quality workforce is one of the biggest HR challenges the convenience industry is facing.

Jayme Gough, NACS’ research manager, said that U.S. job openings are at a 20-year high, and the national quit rate is at a record high of 2.9%. Gough also calculated that there are about 3.9 million people missing from the workforce since 2020.

“That’s more people than our entire industry employs,” said Gough at the NACS HR Forum, which took place last week.

Gough reported that total turnover for the convenience retailing industry was 150%, the highest it’s been since 2012. The full-time employee turnover rate is at 118.8%, and the part-time employee turnover rate is at 181.6%.

“We expected the turnover rate to be high in 2021, but still 181.6%, that is a huge number,” said Gough.

Are you looking to hire? NACS has conducted extensive research on what people want in jobs to help retailers communicate the context of jobs by showcasing how they tie into what applicants care about most and what they treasure from previous jobs.