Oct. 15 2018 07:53 AM

Landscape companies say they are losing contracts over the labor shortage.

Many landscape companies in northeast Ohio are hurting due to the shortage of available H2B visas, according to an article on Cleveland.com. The H2B visa program, which allows employers to hire temporary workers for non-agricultural jobs, has become stricter and more heavily regulated this year, creating a shortage of workers for businesses that have relied on this source of labor for years, according to the article.

George Hohman, founder and president of Turfscape grounds maintenance and landscaping company in Northeast Ohio, filed his paperwork for 54 H2B worker visas this year, but out of the 66,000 visas available nationwide, plus an additional 15,000 added in June, he didn't get a single one.

Instead, Hohman hired local employees, including college students, but many of them reportedly quit after experiencing the physical demands of landscaping. He and his managers joined their crews out in the fields, trying to make up for the labor shortage, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. "We got fired from six or seven contracts in May and June, because we couldn't complete our services in time," Hohman told Cleveland.com. "It was devastating, absolutely devastating.”

As the economy flourishes and the demand for landscaping services grows, the amount of available visas had not increased. In 2017, Congress discontinued the returning worker program, which let employers bring back workers who were not counted against their visa limits. In May 2018, the Department of Homeland Security granted an additional 15,000 H2B visas, and while this helped, it still wasn’t enough to fulfill the 81,000 H2B applications the Department of Labor received at the beginning of 2018.

Sandy Munley, executive director of the Ohio Landscape Association was also quoted in the article saying "It's been a real challenge for our industry as a whole. It's really a shame that when our economy's up and there's a lot of landscaping work out there, that we just can't provide it because there aren't enough workers.”

Several other landscape business owners in the region have had to turn down work due to the labor shortage. What used to be a guaranteed source of workers has become uncertain as landscaping business owners no longer know from year to year if they’ll be able to secure enough employees to get them through the season.

Local landscapers say the issue over H2B visas have become unnecessarily political as the national discussion of immigration and border patrol has heated up over the past year and it is affecting landscapers across the country.