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Southern Maryland Notebook

25,000 Additional Work Visas Give a Boost to Md. Crab Industry

By Southern Maryland Notebook
Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that 25,000 additional visas would be made available for seasonal workers, helping Maryland's crab industry hire the part-time workers needed to keep the businesses running.

"When they told me they didn't have the workforce they needed this season, I was proud to fight for them," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). "I am pleased the Department of Homeland Security responded to my requests and released these additional visas."

Federal immigration laws capped the seasonal workers' H-2B visas at 26,000 per year. Many crab processing facilities on the Eastern Shore were denied visas because of the cap, creating severe labor shortages, according to official reports. Mikulski and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Frank M. Kratovil Jr. (D-Md.) worked to get more visas released.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) thanked the congressmen and said in a statement: "Maryland's historic crab industry depends on the H-2B program, and today's announcement is good news for all whose livelihood depends on the crab industry. These additional temporary worker visas will allow the crab picking houses on our Shore to remain strong throughout the season with the workforce they need."

The governor signed a letter in April 2008 with 16 other governors requesting an extension of the cap. In June, he initiated a letter signed by seven other governors asking for relief.

Hoyer Misses Hospital Tour, Signs 'Cash for Clunkers' Bill

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was forced to cancel his tour of the new emergency department at Calvert Memorial Hospital on Thursday because a funeral he attended ran long, but he signed nearly a dozen bills. "Cash for Clunkers" was on the top of the pile.

The clunkers program is the wildly successful $1 billion federal effort to boost auto sales by offering owners of older vehicles with poor gas mileage $4,500 for trade-ins. Late Thursday, the Senate approved an additional $2 billion for the program. President Obama (D) signed the bill Friday.

"If we get this back in a timely fashion, the president wants to get on this tonight," Hoyer said as he signed the bill in a conference room near the hospital's entrance. Hoyer was there to hold a town hall-style meeting with health-care providers on health-care reform.

The hospital's emergency department recently added time-saving technology that is able to track patients minute-by-minute.

Hoyer was still able to tour the hospital's electronic intensive-care unit, a high-tech facility equipped with cameras, computer equipment and screens that allow doctors and specialists at an off-site location to aid in treatment.

St. Mary's Hospital Teams With Children's National

St. Mary's Hospital announced an expanded range of pediatric programs and services with Children's National Medical Center in the District this week.

The Leonardtown hospital teamed with Children's National to offer pediatric electroencephalograms and sleep studies at St. Mary's Hospital last month. This offering expands on the current joint service, which makes pediatric echocardiograms available.

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