Dear Delegate Sablan: We are writing to you as the collective voice of the business community on Saipan. Our Saipan Chamber of Commerce comprises more than 160 private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. As our island is small and remote, our Chamber makes great strides to work with our whole community, as we are interdependent and our workforce issues affect not only our businesses, but our entire economy.
We wish to express our strong support of the Northern Marianas Islands U.S. Workforce Act. Our Chamber believes that the provisions in this bill will allow our economy to continue to grow while we work toward training the current and future available local workforce, as well as the recruitment and retention of additional U.S. qualified workers.
We would, however, like to request the following additional considerations:
g We believe that delaying the reduction of 500 per year for the cap from 2020 until 2023 would allow businesses to continue to train and recruit without being significantly affected by a workforce reduction. Many of the existing job positions do not qualify for H visa categories, yet will require three months to three years of additional training to be filled by a U.S. qualified workers. We need the additional years to continue the economic momentum we were experiencing prior to the loss of 3,000 CW-1 employees in fiscal year 2018, and as wages exponentially rise in an improved economy we anticipate former U.S. citizen residents to return to meet the impact of future CW-1 reductions.
g We would like to request an additional 2,000 permits for the initial cap (to 15,000), which would allow business developments currently in the planning stages to have an adequate workforce prior to opening.
g Additionally, we foresee a potential lag time between when this legislation may be made into law and when the parties involved begin to implement the requisite actions. We ask to be involved in the regulatory processes, which will aid in setting procedures for U.S. DOL certification and wage determinations.
We truly appreciate your efforts in addressing our workforce issues and humbly ask for your assistance in moving this legislation forward.
Velma M. Palacios
Chamber board president