The Georgian congressional delegation remains deeply divided politically, but they agree on one thing: the state needs more workers.
Congressmen from both parties spoke in Macon on Tuesday at an event hosted by the Georgia Chamber.
Republican Rep. Buddy Carter, who represents the state’s 1st congressional district, says Georgia’s labor shortage isn’t hard to overlook.
“If you drive down the street, you see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere,” Carter said. “You see companies closing early and cutting their hours because they don’t have the help.”
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Democrat, says a major reason for these labor shortages is the sharp decline in immigration over the past six years.
“We’re not getting the supply from immigration that we’ve really built our companies on, and what I hear when I talk to people is that companies are desperate for workers,” Bourdeaux said.
Bourdeaux, who will leave Washington next year after losing elementary school in the newly drawn 7th congressional district, also says more high school and technical college students should be made aware of the many high-paying careers that don’t necessarily require one four-year college degree.
“We have a lot of the great pieces in place,” Bourdeaux said. “We just have to start building on that and bringing them together.”
Republican Rep. Rick Allen, representing Georgia’s 12th congressional district, proposes that the H-2A visa program for temporary farm workers be placed under the Department of Agriculture.
“This whole thing gets stuck in bureaucracy,” said, “These of us on the Agriculture Committee call the Department of Labor every season and try to get these workers here under this legal program. They are ready to come, but there are always interruptions.”
Georgia Chamber CEO and President Chris Clark says immigration reform is one of his organization’s top legislative priorities.
“We have put forward a set of recommendations addressing issues such as how to encourage women to re-enter the labor market, such as childcare and these types of issues?” Clark said. “We must regulate legal immigration and increase the number of visas.”
Clark also said the state should pass legislation that would allow DACA recipients to receive state tuition.
He hopes discussions like Tuesday’s lunchtime will help secure a bipartisan solution to many of the issues facing Georgia businesses, including labor shortages, access to rural broadband and supply chain deficiencies.
“People from opposite parties on the same stage, it forces them to recognize each other, to have a deeper conversation,” Clark said. And hopefully they can take that to Washington.”