Summer camps face staff shortages
Summer camps are days from opening but it's not the pandemic they're worried about -- it's having enough staff.
Camp directors were worried about just getting their doors open this summer and making sure everyone felt safe enough to return but now they're facing the reality of opening up as early as this weekend without enough counselors.
Richard Moss, one of the owners of Camp Lenox in Otis, Massachusetts, is thrilled to be back this summer after the pandemic forced him to take last year off.
One-fifth of their campers come from Westchester County.
"We're providing an essential service now more than ever," he says.
Traditionally, many sleepaway camps like Lenox hire staff from abroad including the U.K., Australia and South America to work for the summer.
They come here on temporary, cultural-exchange visas but this summer, the pandemic is delaying them from getting the paperwork they need to get here.
"It's been a real challenge to get the people we need to be fully staffed," he says.
The visa slowdown began last summer when the U.S. suspended temporary visas for foreign workers, claiming it would protect American jobs during the pandemic.
That order ended at the end of March this year but restarting the visa program has been slow - so slow that many international workers may not get their paperwork approved until after camp is over.
As a result, staffing at Camp Lenox is down 15%, they accepted 10% fewer campers and some programs are being scaled back to adjust.
Usually, over 25,000 counselors get the visas to work at camp.
Last year, it was just over 200.
The U.S. granted 22,000 extra seasonal visas at the end of April to help with the problem, but with many embassies still closed and certain countries on a travel ban, the approval process is still taking months and comes far too late for camps like Lenox, which opens on Saturday.