Kuster Discusses Support for and Importance of Seasonal Worker Programs with New Hampshire Businesses
**Approximately 300,000 participants from over 200 countries and territories visit the United States on a J-1 cultural exchange visa each year**
Washington, February 7, 2022
Concord, N.H. — Today, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) met with local New Hampshire business owners and leaders to discuss the importance of BridgeUSA programs — formerly known as the Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa Program — in filling vital workforce needs. Last week, Rep. Kuster introduced a bipartisan House Resolution expressing congressional support for BridgeUSA programs, which are vital to the economy and national interests of the United States.
Rep. Kuster was joined by Carl Berni, President, Canobie Lake Park; Jessyca Keeler, President, Ski New Hampshire; Christian Gainer, Owner, Santa's Village; Scott Brody, National Board Chair, American Camp Association, and Owner of Camps Kenwood & Evergreen; and Charyl Reardon, President, White Mountains Attractions Association.
“New Hampshire’s hospitality and tourism businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it is essential they have the workforce needed to staff their operations throughout our busy tourism seasons,” said Rep. Kuster. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shifting labor market, it is more challenging for these businesses to get the seasonal workers they need. That’s why the BridgeUSA programs are so important. I will continue working across the aisle to bolster BridgeUSA programs.”
“Canobie Lake Park greatly appreciates Representative Kuster’s leadership in supporting the tourism industry in New Hampshire,” said Carl Berni, President, Canobie Lake Park. “The value of the BridgeUSA program is vital to the State’s economy, as many seasonal businesses are relying on this program to get their operations back to pre-pandemic levels.”
“The past 2 years have been difficult for Santa’s Village and the hospitality and tourism industry. The Bridge USA program is vital for Santa’s Village to rebound back from Covid-19 setbacks,” said Christian Gainer, Owner, Santa's Village. “The increase in seasonal workforce will put us back on-track, delivering ‘Pure Joy. Family Style,’ to all of our guests from New England and beyond.”
“Bridge USA's Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel programs provide millions of American children with the opportunity to meet people from other countries, learn about their cultures, and share what it is like to be a child growing up in the USA,” said Scott Brody, National Board Chair, American Camp Association, and Owner of Camps Kenwood & Evergreen. “This is true cultural exchange, and for many children who might never be able to travel abroad, their Camp Counselor from the UK or Australia or Latin America is their first experience of living with someone who grew up in a different culture. J-1 Camp Counselors also bring critical specialized skills that help our nation's summer camps offer children a wide range of fun and exciting activities. They are life guards, soccer instructors, key support staff, care givers, and educators. They don't take jobs away from Americans, as well over 90% of camp jobs are filled by American staff. Instead, they help to fill in the missing pieces and bring with them a wealth of skills and experience that allow our nation’s camps to serve even more American children and provide them with safe, enriching and engaging summer experiences.”
“The workforce crisis is one of the most critical issues our industry is facing as we continue to navigate and emerge from the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Many of our Attractions and hospitality businesses have had to reduce their operating days, daily hours, or only open parts of their business for guests due to the lack of available workforce; making it very difficult to deliver visitors with the vacation experience they are expecting, and the service they are accustomed to getting,” said Charyl Reardon, President, White Mountains Attractions Association. “Our tourism seasons are relatively short, 3-4 months, bringing challenges to hire individuals seeking full-time, year-round positions. A full recovery and the ability to continue to support our local economy will be difficult to achieve without rebuilding the tourism workforce which includes subsidizing it with participants from programs like BridgeUSA.”