BRANSON, MO- In 2020, Branson only had 5% of the international workers from the J-1 program that they expected during the summer.
“We were caught off guard,” said Izzy Martinez, the Programs Coordinator for the Taney County Partnership. “Right when covid had happened, it was in March and our program usually kicks off in May.”
Former President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation on June 22, 2020, suspending entry into the United States for international students with a J visa. The proclamation is set to expire on March 31, 2021.
Martinez added that the global distribution of covid-19 vaccines is also giving the program and its sponsors hope for this year.
“Honestly, we’re pretty optimistic,” said Martinez. “I have been getting in contact with sponsors, and they are doing the recruitment. I think for this year, we’re just expecting maybe a smaller number, not as big as our previous years.”
Even though they will be starting small, Martinez says the program should be back in full swing by 2022, which is good news for local businesses that depend on this workforce to help with staffing during the summer.
“It’s vitally important because we’re a tourist area, and so we have millions of people who literally come to Branson, even during this last year,” said Martinez.