Omnibus Will Be Main Focus for Lame Duck Congress
The post-election lame duck session of Congress will likely be an exhausting one with negotiations for the high-stakes, must-pass government funding package that would increase federal budgets in the new fiscal year as the first priority. The omnibus will potentially include hurricane relief funding, more military aid for Ukraine, a water resources bill, flood insurance renewal and annual extensions of targeted tax breaks. It’s also likely Democrats will push to include another round of COVID-19 and monkeypox aid - which they failed to secure in the continuing resolution. Congressional lawmakers are also considering several health-related ride-alongs, including provisions to overhaul how the FDA regulates dietary supplements and cosmetics, legislation to bolster kidney dialysis coverage and a measure aimed at fighting antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Democrats are also hoping to revive the expired Child Tax Credit enhancement, while Republicans want to revive a tax benefit for businesses that allowed them to immediately write off their research expenses. More tax breaks could be in play, in addition to legislation that would expand retirement savings incentives.
H-2A Visa Program
On Thursday, October 7, the U.S. Department of Labor finalized updated regulations for the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers. The H-2A visa program allows employers to address temporary labor needs by employing foreign agricultural workers when there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available, to do the job and when doing so will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers similarly employed in the U.S. The regulations revamp how prevailing wage standards are determined while changing some of the standards required to participate in the program.
The final rule broadly keeps intact the changes proposed in July 2019, which were intended to simplify the application process. It improves safety and health protections for workers housed in rental or public accommodations; streamlines and updates bond requirements for labor contractors to better hold them accountable, and clarifies joint-employer status for employers and associations; and clarifies the housing certification process to allow state and local authorities to conduct housing inspections. The new rule also establishes explicit authority to debar attorneys and agents for their misconduct, independent of an employer’s violations; makes electronic filing mandatory for most applications to improve employers’ processing efficiency; and modernizes the methodology and procedures for determining the prevailing wage to allow state workforce agencies to produce more prevailing wage findings.
In the 2021 fiscal year, there were more than 250,000 H-2A visas issued. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on October 12, 2022 and will go into effect on November 14, 2022.
Click here to read the Department of Labor’s full press release.
Click here to access the Federal Register where the final rule will be published.
On Friday, October 7, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the unemployment report for September, which showed an increase in nonfarm payrolls by 263,000 for the month - falling just short of the Dow Jones estimate of 275,000. The unemployment rate was 3.5% versus the forecast of 3.7% and the labor force participation rate dipped slightly lower to 62.3%. The slowdown in September employment data shows the businesses kept hiring at a brisk pace, unemployment fell back to a half-centry low and average pay rose; however, it also highlights how little progress the Federal Reserve has made in the fight against inflation.
Click here to access the unemployment report.
Click here to read Secretary Walsh’s statement on the September Jobs Report.