March 27, 2020

Dear MNLGA Members:

This e-mail is distributed to key contacts; please feel free to share with others in your office.

I do not mean to inundate, however, there is a lot of information coming my way that I think needs to shared with you. This issue includes a few more COVID-19 employer relief options, transportation guidance, and H2A Visa processing info. Also information on how to contact the Red Cross if you are able to donate blood. Please be safe everyone - keep diligent with the COVID-19 precautions. Please see below:

1.   The COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund was established to help minimize layoffs by providing funds to assist with job training, work from home options, etc. The link is below. There is a limit to the funding, so if you feel that you may qualify, please submit the application as soon as possible. 
 

 
 
2.      In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”). The Act provides leave to employees for certain circumstances related to the Coronavirus outbreak. Attached is a Notice of Employee Rights under the Act provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.   This notice should be posted for employee viewing.  




5.       H-2A Update from AmericanHort

As you may be aware, USDA has been working diligently with DOL, DHS, and State to limit the disruption in the H-2A workforce caused by COVID-19. Today (March 26) the State Department took additional steps to increase processing of H-2 visa holders through consulates around the world.  USDA applauds these modifications and the expansion of interview waiver eligibility to ensure that the majority of H-2 processing can continue. 
 
Specifically:
 
  •  Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. 
 
  •  Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility.  
 
  • This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months (increased from 12 months), and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa.
 
  •  We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.
 
Attached you will find FAQs and a more complete summary . Guidance can be found on https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-h2-visas.htm and is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a . Please note: these activities relate to US Consular activities. Where other countries have travel restrictions or lock down policies in place, Embassies generally operate by that local guidance. This may impact the application of this guidance. USDA encourages you to monitor the respective Embassy’s webpage for most up to date information.
 
USDA continues to work with DOL, DHS, and State to limit the disruption in the H-2A workforce while protecting the health and safety of federal employees and the individuals seeking entry under the H-2 programs. If there are specific labor related questions please email aglabor@usda.gov .


6.       Blood banks across the area are in need. If you are able to give blood, please consider visiting the Red Cross. I think it would be wise to make an appointment rather than arrive unexpectedly.   Visit Greater Chesapeake Region Red Cross to find a donation center near you.


Please keep me informed of what is going on with your business. If I know what is going on, I may be a better resource to you and to other members as we navigate together this uncharted territory. Feel free to email me at Vanessa @mnlga.org .


Vanessa A. Finney
Executive Director, MNLGA
410-823-8684
Vanessa@MNLGA.org