Many hotels and restaurants in Cody don't have enough seasonal workers this year. This is partly because of a regulation change to a foreign workers visa program.
The H-2B visa allows U.S. businesses to bring in foreign workers to fill temporary housekeeping, maintenance and construction jobs. In 2017, the availability of that type of visa went down. Congress decided returning workers would not be exempt from the annual 66,000 cap of visas given out.
Bill Garlow owns two Best Western hotels in Cody. He’s had 40 Jamaican seasonal workers for the past couple of years. But this year he only has 30.
“They had a lot more applications than 66,000 so they went to a lottery. And we luckily got our 30...were drawn so next year it could be that we wouldn’t get any and that would be a real problem,” said Garlow.
Garlow has been relying on H-2B workers since the early 2000’s when he was unable to hire enough local workers for the summer season. He’s worried he will have to close down one of his hotels next year if he doesn’t get approved any H-2B workers the next go around.
“I might be able to keep one open. But I would go recruit and pay whatever I had to. It’s possible to get people, somebody from Denver…you just have to go to $20 to $25 per hour,” he said.
This year, he has been able to manage with fewer workers by downsizing and employees working overtime.