Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King are pushing for an increase in the number of H-2B visas the U.S. allots this year.
H-2B visas allow foreign workers to fill seasonal jobs in the country. Collins and King are leading a bipartisan group of 11 senators to ask the Department of Homeland Security Secretary to double the cap for the number of foreign workers allowed into the U.S. at a time.
Collins and King argue that Maine's summer tourism industry cannot function without these workers.
"It's particularly unfair to the state of Maine because our tourism season is later than Florida's, for example, which is going on right now," said Collins. "So a lot of the visas tend to be used up by the time that our tourism season comes around."
The existing cap for H-2B visas is 66,000 allowed nationwide for the entire year. Maine's senators want to push that number to more than 135,000 annually.
"With the low unemployment rate we have right now, local workers are just not available," continued Collins. "The impact of not having enough workers means that some of these restaurants have to curtail their hours, or inns can't open up a wing of their hotel. It's a real problem."
By law, employers must first make an effort to hire American workers to fill open positions -- then they can employ people on H-2B visas.
With a population of 1.3 million in Maine, officials argue there are not enough workers in the state to meet the needs of the 36 million tourists who visit each year.