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Maine hospitality industry in hiring limbo

Maine's hotels and resorts are set to receive only a fraction of the foreign worker visas they typically receive, but also a fraction of typical business.

OGUNQUIT, Maine — A shortage of tourism workers is an annual problem in Maine, and this year is no exception. 

According to the group 'Hospitality Maine,' the state's hospitality industry typically welcomes around 7,500 foreign workers in the summer through visa programs. 

However, the government departments that process visas have been largely shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving many resorts without the visas they requested. 

"The whole process of processing those visas has basically ground to a halt," Hospitality Maine Director of Government Affairs Greg Dugal says. "It's going to be a fraction of what we normally get, but then again, the business could be a fraction of what we normally get."

Dugal points out, with many large events being canceled and out-of-staters still required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in Maine, the hospitality industry anticipates a slow summer season.  

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A principal of Meadowmere Resort Allyson Cavaretta says, "We hope it will be busy enough that we will need all of our seasonal staff!"

Cavaretta says resorts like hers are all struggling to navigate staffing this summer, for both American and foreign workers. 

"There are many, many moving parts to building a staff this year."

Cavaretta says while Meadowmere Resort typically employs around 15 to 20 H-2B workers each year, that is now subject to change.

"We want people to be here and feel comfortable to work and be safe to work, but of course we need customers for them to be able to work." 

One bright spot: as more Mainers are unemployed, locals may be able to fill the gaps.

"Of course we still have our American workforce and that's where we first and foremost look to hire," Cavaretta said.

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