Representative Peter Welch (D) applauded the inclusion of additional USCIS funding in the stopgap government funding bill (HR 8337) that passed the US House of Representatives on Tuesday night. The additional funds, long championed by Welch and Senators Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I), will prevent the furloughs of agency staff in Vermont, and across the nation.

“I am pleased that this bill not only prevents a disastrous government shutdown, but also includes measures to prevent the unnecessary furlough of Vermont workers,” said Welch. “Over 1,100 USCIS workers in Franklin County do important work every day to help immigrants and new Americans as they go through the naturalization, asylum or visa process. This provision gives USCIS the funds that it needs to prevent any furloughs and ensures that these Vermonters can continue to do their work.”

The provision was included as part of an agreement between House Democrats and the White House to prevent a government shutdown by funding the federal government through December 11, 2020. It allows USCIS to charge $1,500-$2,000 for premium services often used by companies seeking to bring skilled workers into the U.S. The boosted premium fees will allow the agency to avert layoffs.

Throughout the summer, Welch, Leahy and Sanders have worked to avert the planned furloughs at USCIS, originally scheduled for August 30. Welch cosponsored two different bipartisan bills in July and August to prevent USCIS furloughs.

The funding bill also includes important provisions to bolster federal nutrition programs, including extending the Pandemic-EBT program through September 2021. This extension, championed by Welch, will allow Vermont to provide additional 3SquaresVT aid to households with children eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president.