The H1B visa program is one of the fulcrums of a seesaw that President Donald Trump and Joe Biden are sitting on with a bated breath, while the US Presidential election 2020 is just a month away. The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden has vowed to strengthen the US-India relations by mitigating the concerns about H1B visa for Indian techies, whereas President Trump is all set to fill in the void of American talent for high-skilled H1B occupations. H1B visa is so integral to the presidential election that it has become a matter of contention between Trump and Biden.
On September 24, the US Department of Labor introduced the H1B One Workforce Grant Program to upskill the American workforce for high-skilled H1B jobs in the days to come. A grant of $150 million will be approved and spent under the H1B One Workforce Grant Program to train the next-gen American workers in key sectors driving the economic growth of the country, including cyber security, information technology, transportation and manufacturing.
The Department of Labor said that the H1B One Workforce Grant Program will be executed through public-private partnerships to train individuals in the skills relevant to medium-to-high skilled H1B occupations. Establishing a more integrated workforce system is the goal that the Department’s Employment and Training Administration will be disbursing the grants to achieve.
The Trump administration’s H1B One Workforce Grant Program seems the last nail in the coffin of American dreams for foreign techies, including Indians. Notably, India is the biggest long-term beneficiary of the H1B visa program. The US policy critics, conglomerates and outsourcing firms have denounced the move as restriction of access to the pool of business-critical talent in foreign countries, including India. 70% of H1B visas have been issued to Indian techies in the past five years.
The H1B One Workforce Grant Program appears to combat the United States’ employment crisis in view of the pandemic and ignores what H1B visa workers contribute to the US economy. One of the key findings in the pre-COVID19 studies on the economy impact of H1B visa workers is that they contribute more than $27 billion to the federal programs like social security and Medicare that they being non-immigrants are not entitled to. Another pre-COVID19 finding is that three million H1B visa workers in the USA collectively pay $85 billion towards income taxes at a base tax rate of 24%.
The Department of Labor is urging local employers to think and work as ‘One Workforce’ instead of individuals, in a bid to justify the H1B One Workforce Grant Program and revive the COVID19-hit US economy. “Our goal is to create seamless collaboration to build a career passage for local job seekers in key sectors where foreign professionals are hired on H1B visa for high-skilled occupations,” said John Pallasch, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training.
Lead applicants for the H1B One Workforce Grant Program include businesses, business-related nonprofits, community colleges, community-based organizations, and entities managing the public workforce system. The program will benefit the unemployed, the underemployed and incumbent workers who need skill develop in the pandemic-hit US. Each selected applicant will be given between $500,000 and $10 million from the $150-million grant under the H1B One Workforce Grant Program.
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