DOL Frees Up $150M To Fill H-1B Worker Shortages

By Alyssa Aquino
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Law360 (September 25, 2020, 9:10 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Department of Labor announced it will invest $150 million into training American residents for positions in industries facing critical shortages of skilled workers, a measure that comes months after President Donald Trump barred foreigners on H-1B specialty occupation visas from entering the country.  

The Labor Department announced late Thursday that the H-1B One Workforce Grant Program would provide grants to organizations looking to train workers to fill "middle- to high-skilled occupations" in the cybersecurity, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

"The purpose of this grant program is to fill critical shortages in economic regions," the DOL said in documents filed on a government grant site.

The businesses, trade associations and schools that secure H-1B One Workforce funding must service individuals who are at least 17 years old and not currently enrolled in a secondary education program. But the DOL stressed that it was particularly interested in unemployed and underemployed individuals entering the programs.

The program is financed by the user fees that businesses pay to bring foreign workers into the U.S. through the H-1B visa program, according to the DOL.

The DOL estimates it will hand out 30 awards, ranging from $500,000 to $10 million.

The grant program comes months after Trump issued an executive order blocking foreign citizens from moving to the U.S. on a number of work visas, including the H-1B visa, through the end of 2020.

The Trump administration said the visa ban was part of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has battered the domestic economy and led to rising unemployment.

However, dozens of technology giants, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., raised concerns that the ban would only stifle their ability to attract top-tier talent and have backed H-1B visa holders' attempt to lift the restrictions.

On Sept. 16, a D.C. federal judge said the foreign workers were unlikely to win their legal challenge and refused to shield them from the visa ban.

---Additional reporting by Suzanne Monyak. Editing by Abbie Sarfo.

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