NTRA Encouraged by House Appropriations Committee Adoption of H-2B Relief Language in Appropriations Bill

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is pleased that the House Appropriations Committee adopted critical H-2B relief language in fiscal year ‘23 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Bill. The language would provide cap relief at a reasonable time during peak season, which would greatly help business related to the Thoroughbred industry.H-2B workers fill many backside positions that are vital to the day-to-day operations of racing stables across the country.

“Everywhere I go I hear how labor is nearly impossible to find,” said NTRA President & CEO Tom Rooney. “It is so important for the Thoroughbred industry to get backside positions through the H-2B visa program. I am encouraged by the committee’s inclusion of the H-2B relief language and NTRA will continue to engage with lawmakers to find a permanent solution.”

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment that would extend the current discretionary language that allows for an extension of the cap for FY ‘23 on H-2B visas. If it becomes law, the Secretary of Homeland Security will be required to issue guidance implementing this section no later than 60 days after enactment and will be immediately effective upon its publication. House leaders hope to have a full vote on this spending bill in July and if passed it would then move to the Senate for consideration. In addition, following the relief language adoption, unions expressed a commitment to work with lawmakers as well as industry to try and negotiate a permanent cap solution beginning in July.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

DHS and DOL Announce Additional H-2B Visas for 2022

Lexington, KY, May 17, 2022 – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) commends the decision announced by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) to make an additional 35,000 H-2B visas available for the second half of FY-2022.

“We thank DHS, DOL, and the Administration for recognizing the critical need for additional H-2B visas to fill positions not being filled by US workers,” said NTRA President & CEO Tom Rooney. “This announcement will help provide immediate relief for tracks and horse trainers going into the summer racing season. While the release of additional H-2B visas is good news for the industry, the NTRA will continue to advocate for more comprehensive immigration reform in the future.”

The supplemental H-2B visa allocation is for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers on or after April 1, 2022 through September 30, 2022. This announcement makes 23,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 11,500 visas are reserved for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti, regardless of whether they are returning workers. The semiannual cap of 33,000 visas for the second half of FY 2022 was reached on February 25, 2022.  Employers can begin petitioning on Wednesday, May 18. More information can be found here.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

Federal Trade Commission Approves HISA Racetrack Safety Rules, Accreditation Standards

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Friday approved the rules and accreditation standards that comprise the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s (HISA) Racetrack Safety Program, marking a major milestone in HISA’s mission to protect the wellbeing of equine and human athletes along with the integrity of the sport. With the FTC’s approval, HISA will now move forward with robust industry education efforts ahead of the program’s July 1, 2022, implementation date.

“The Racetrack Safety Program’s multi-faceted approach will enable veterinarians, horsemen and all racing participants to optimize the safety of every horse before they set foot on the track while also increasing our understanding of the conditions that contribute to equine injuries,” said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus. “The importance of this program cannot be overstated as we build on advances the industry has already made by implementing national, uniform rules and regulations, increasing accountability, and using data- and research-driven solutions to enhance the safety of our horses and jockeys.  We sincerely believe that this data will generate the information we need to help prolong equine and jockey careers.”

In drafting the rules, the Racetrack Safety Committee examined existing rules and best practices in addition to seeking input from state racing commissions, racing participants and other experts and industry organizations in a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process. The interested public had further opportunities to provide input on the draft rules via the HISA website and during the FTC’s public comment period.  Highlights of the Racetrack Safety Program include:

  • Expanded veterinary oversight;
  • Surface maintenance and measurement standards;
  • Enhanced reporting requirements;
  • Collection and analysis of medication, treatment, injury, and fatality data;
  • A voided claim rule;
  • The transfer of claimed horses’ medical information; and
  • Jockey concussion and medical care reporting.

Starting on July 1, all tracks that are accredited with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) will receive interim accreditation, while tracks that are not accredited with the NTRA will be granted a one-year provisional accreditation and be given a reasonable period to achieve compliance as long as they are demonstrating continuous progress. HISA intends to work with individual racetracks and state racing jurisdictions, recognizing that compliance with new legal requirements on day one is not realistic.

“We are gratified that after a rigorous process, the FTC has overwhelmingly approved the Racetrack Safety regulations and national accreditation standards. The next step in the process will be for HISA to share cost assessments with each of the states by April 1, 2022,” explained Dr. Susan Stover, Chair of the Racetrack Safety Committee. “These new rules will decrease fatalities by detecting horses with mild pre-existing conditions through expanded veterinary oversight and the review of medication and treatment records and training histories. They will also provide a window into understanding and preventing the development of mild injuries in the first place via uniform surface maintenance standards and ongoing data analysis.”

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is challenging the federal legislation that created HISA, issued the following statement on Saturday:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday, March 3, 2022, issued an order approving without exception all the racetrack safety regulations propounded by the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority (HISA). The rubber-stamp order accepted without issue all of the proposed rules as well as acceptance of the Authority’s responses to the comments submitted by industry participants.
The order recognized that many of the comments by industry stakeholders were useful and constructive to improve the rules. Yet, the FTC refused to disapprove any rule, nor did it direct such constructive changes be incorporated prior to approval. Instead, the FTC took the position that it would welcome future proposed rule modifications that the Authority decides to submit in response to comments received.
This FTC order makes crystal clear that this private entity of self-appointed rule-makers (i.e., The Authority) has unfettered power without governmental oversight to control the horseracing industry.
The illusion of governmental supervisory control was clearly dispelled with the FTC approving all of the Authority’s proposals without exception. It also demonstrated that this private entity will make the rules without regard to the constructive comments of industry stakeholders.
The FTC’s order affirms the significant concerns expressed in pending litigation that such a delegation of control is unconstitutional and that the input of those closest to the horseracing industry is no longer relevant.

Harmful H-2B Visa Program Language Removed from Labor Appropriations Bill

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 16, 2021) ― United States Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) on July 15 offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2022 Department of Labor Appropriations bill to remove certain sections from the bill that would have made it difficult for employers to use the H-2B visa program. During committee consideration, the amendment passed yesterday by voice vote.

Specifically, the amendment struck sections 116, 177 and 118 from the bill. The language in those sections would have:

• Prohibited industries from using the H-2B program if they experienced unemployment in any of the previous 12 months over 10 percent;
• Prohibited construction industries from using the program even in seasonal locations or occupations;
• Increased the baseline for wages to at least 150% of the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
• Required wage compliance with a collaborative bargaining agreement for your industry in your area, even if you are not a party to the agreement;
• Banned participation in the program for labor/workforce related infractions outside of the scope of the H-2B program.

“Thank you to all who contacted their Representative regarding this issue,” said NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We also are grateful to Rep. Harris for offering the amendment to eliminate the language that was so threatening to employers, like horse trainers, who use the H-2B visa program.”

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

H-2B Visa Program Faces Severe Threat from Department of Labor Appropriations Bill

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 14, 2021) ― The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2022 Department of Labor Appropriations bill on Thursday, July 15, and language within the bill could devastate the H-2B visa program. The NTRA urges industry members to contact their Representative immediately and ask for this language to be removed from the bill.

The language of concern appears on pages 46-50 of the bill and would make the H-2B visa program difficult for many employers to use. Specifically, the draft bill would:

• Prohibit industries from using the H-2B program if they experienced unemployment in any of the previous 12 months over 10 percent;
• Prohibit construction industries from using the program even in seasonal locations or occupations;
• Increase the baseline for wages to at least 150% of the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
• Require wage compliance with a collaborative bargaining agreement for your industry in your area, even if you are not a party to the agreement;
• Ban participation in the program for labor/workforce related infractions outside of the scope of the H-2B program.

“This appropriations bill contains alarming language for any business or industry that relies on the H-2B visa program to operate,” said NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We ask trainers and others in horse racing to contact their Representative today to help get this language removed.”

As suggested by the H-2B Workforce Coalition, of which the NTRA is a member, industry members should:

Call your Representative today and ask him or her to urge the House Appropriations Committee leadership and their Party Leadership to remove Sections 116, 117 and 118 of Fiscal Year 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Appropriations Bill before the legislation is considered by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. You can reach your Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Once connected to the office, please ask to speak to the staff person who handles Department of Labor appropriations.
Send an email to your Representative using this link

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

2020 NTRA Legislative Annual Report Released

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2021) ― The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) 2020 Legislative Action Campaign (LAC) Annual Report is now available on the association’s website and can be downloaded here or at the following link: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/21-290-029-LAC-2020-Annual-Report-FINAL.pdf.

 

The report reviews the NTRA’s federal legislative activities in 2020 and the fundraising programs that support them. Specifically, the report includes:

  • A federal legislative summary of issues that are important to horse racing and breeding, including the latest on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, Sports Betting, Three-year Racehorse Depreciation, Immigration and other legislation;
  • A list of 2020 contributors to the NTRA’s Legislative Action Campaign through the ¼% Check-off Program and other related NTRA fundraising programs;
  • Sale company calendars; and
  • Member discount information from NTRA partners like John Deere, Sherwin-Williams, Office Depot and Big Ass Fans

 

“We thank the buyers, sellers and consignors who supported our federal legislative advocacy in 2020 by participating in the ¼% Check-off Program through sales hosted by our partners at Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders Sales (OBS), the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (WTBOA) and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA),” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We appreciate these sale companies for all they do to help facilitate the Check-off Program and we also thank the farms, breeders and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour members who contributed through other fundraising programs. It was a difficult year in many ways but, once again, the industry rallied in support of our efforts on Capitol Hill.”

Additional H-2B Visas Soon To Be Available For Trainers During 2nd Half of Federal Fiscal Year 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 20, 2021) ― The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor have agreed to offer 22,000 additional H-2B visas to employers for the second half of the federal fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2021. These visas are used by employers, such as racehorse trainers, who seek seasonal guest workers. They are capped at 66,000 annually, with an even split of 33,000 available for each half of the federal government’s fiscal year. The additional visas will be made available later this spring or early summer via a temporary final rule in the Federal Register.  Six thousand of these visas will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“We are pleased to learn that additional H-2B visas will be available for trainers soon and applaud Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh for this action,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “At the same time, the NTRA supports relief from the burdensome annual H-2B visa cap through a permanent returning worker exemption and urges both departments to reform the program accordingly, enabling affected employers to stabilize their businesses.”

This past December, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 became law and included a provision that provides the DHS with the discretionary authority to release an additional 64,176 H-2B visas when significant need is demonstrated. The NTRA, through its involvement with the H-2B Workforce Coalition, supports all efforts to make additional visas available to seasonal businesses struggling with labor issues.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

Demand for H-2B visas often exceeds their availability and the cap level is quickly reached, leaving employers in need. For the second half of federal fiscal year 2021, DHS announced that by February 12 it had received enough H-2B worker petitions to reach the congressionally mandated cap of 33,000 visas allotted.

NTRA Safety And Integrity Alliance Releases Best Practices For Spectator-Free Racing

May 7, 2020

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance today released a document outlining best practices for North American racetracks determined to prioritize the health and safety of all participants and employees, when conducting live racing in a spectator-free environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comprehensive document will assist racetracks that wish to resume live racing by establishing the safest public health environment possible, while also enabling gainful employment and economic activity at a time of uncertainty for so many. These best practices are based upon the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), input from racetracks across the U.S. that are already conducting live racing and/or training, and feedback from a newly established Public Health Advisory Council consisting of experts in public health, epidemiology and horseracing who have agreed to contribute their expertise to racetrack re-opening efforts.

In addition to public health protocols established by the CDC, the document includes detailed racetrack-specific operational guidelines. These include the establishment of a COVID-19 Safety Team to manage the myriad issues and situations that may arise when conducting live racing, cleaning and sanitation protocols, frontside operations involving essential employees only, racing and stable area operations that facilitate maximum physical distancing, health and safety requirements specific to jockeys, as well as other public health and safety recommendations.

Initial members of the Public Health Advisory Council include:
· Dr. Rick Greenberg, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Kentucky
· Dr. Hiram Polk, Former Public Health Commissioner, Kentucky Dept. for Public Health
· Dr. Kelly Ryan, Family and Sports Medicine Specialist, MedStar Health
· Dr. Barry Schumer, Track Physician, Keeneland

“The current economic situation facing many in the horse racing industry make it critical that we work with relevant local authorities to help tracks across the country return to racing as soon as is safely possible,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “To this end, the NTRA has engaged a variety of stakeholders and consulted with multiple public health experts to produce comprehensive guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for tracks seeking to operate safely and responsibly in the current public health environment. We urge racetracks to tailor these protocols to fit their unique conditions by working closely with their state and local health department officials, as so much about the safest response to this pandemic is local in nature.”

Version 1.0 of the full document outlining all of the best practices can be found here: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/NTRA_Covid_19_Plan_5.6.20-V6-FINAL.pdf

Updates to these best practices will be made on an ongoing basis as necessary.

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has reopened the application process for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program after a short delay. Farms with fewer than 500 employees whose primary activity is breeding horses may now apply for these loans offered to businesses that have suffered economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is welcome news and a terrific opportunity for horse farms that are currently facing a number of daunting challenges,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “The NTRA encourages quick action by those interested, as the loans are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Click here to access the EIDL application.
The NTRA lobbied the SBA for several weeks after farms were excluded from earlier federal emergency aid packages. On April 24, President Trump signed into law another package providing relief to small businesses, including farms and ranches.
NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, posted an update to the COVID-19 microsite on NTRA.com that outlines the new provisions that will positively impact horse breeding farms. That PowerPoint can be found here.

New SBA Guidance Makes Tracks Eligible for Paycheck Protection Program; Farms Can Now Apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans

President Trump signed into law today (4-24-20) an emergency aid package providing additional relief to small businesses and health care facilities, and the Small Business Administration released updated guidance that will assist the horse industry.

 

The new law provides $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, which was oversubscribed. The additional appropriation will allow financial institutions to make additional forgivable loans to eligible small businesses in order to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks.

 

The new law also includes $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and makes farms and ranches eligible for the loans. Farms with 500 or fewer employees whose primary activity is breeding horses are now eligible to apply.

 

Separately, the Treasury and SBA released updated interim final rules that contain a key clarification that will provide essential relief to racetracks and other businesses who rely on gambling income and otherwise qualify for an SBA loan. Under the new rules, businesses that receive legal gambling income are eligible to apply for this loan forgiveness program.

 

The NTRA has been lobbying the SBA for this updated guidance for several weeks.

 

“We thank the SBA and our allies on the Hill for providing clarification that will allow broader participation in the PPP and EIDL loan programs by racetracks, farms and others in our industry who have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop.

 

NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, has posted an update on its Covid-19 microsite at NTRA.com that outlines all of these new provisions that will positively impact horse racing and breeding. That PowerPoint can be found here.