Our initial grant to support the International Organization on Migration (IOM) pilot project to give Haitians access to seasonal work in the United States was made with the understanding that the decision to disburse the second tranche of funds would be made based on two conditions:
- The identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers.
- Evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2 visas.
We met with International Organization for Migration (IOM), Protect The People (PTP), and Center for Global Development (CGD) representatives in November 2014 to discuss progress towards these goals.1 Following the meeting, they submitted a revised budget and an update on their progress:
2 Conditions for the disbursement of the second tranche of funds
Our understanding is that program staff do not anticipate any structural problems with Haitian H-2A visa access, and that the attendant risks to the program have been reduced, though as with all US visa applications, universal access cannot be guaranteed in advance and individual applicants may be rejected.4 We take this to indicate that the second condition for the disbursal of the second tranche, “evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2 visas,” has been met.
Our understanding is that the first condition, “the identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers,” however, has not been met, though program staff report confidence that at least 100 placements will eventually be found.5 IOM and PTP have identified a pipeline of 11 interested employers, with three of the employers who have expressed strong interest seeking a total of ~130 employees.6 We had hoped that employers for 100 Haitian workers would already have been fully contracted prior to the disbursal of the second tranche, but we see the progress towards recruiting employers as reasonably strong, and we would still guess that the project is more likely than not to get 100 or more placements. (We would guess with more confidence that the program will be able to secure at least some smaller number of places.) While we would obviously prefer that the formal criteria had been met, our overall expected value for the number of placements made in 2015 remains near 100, though perhaps erring somewhat on the lower side (e.g. 80).7
Additionally, our initial criterion seems to have been impossible to meet: our current understanding is that employers do not receive final confirmation from the Department of Labor that they will be able to hire H-2A workers until 30 days before the employees would be required to start work.8 Accordingly, the expectation that employers would have formally committed to taking Haitian workers during 2015 prior to the disbursement of the second tranche of funds was unrealistic. We have not investigated the source of our misunderstanding in depth, but as far as we know, IOM staff did not raise this issue during our initial discussions around setting the conditions for the disbursal of the second tranche of funds, nor did we recognize the need to inquire about it.
3 Budget updates
The project was slightly under budget for the first 4 months (which the IOM had originally planned to end on December 5, 2014), so we were able to grant a “no cost extension” to allow the first tranche of funding to continue through the end of December.
The revised budget indicates a number of changes to the plans for the project:9
- At the end of December 2014, the project will be over budget by approximately $30,000, and the overall budget for the second phase has been altered to recoup those costs.
- Funding for “Community Support and Training” in the sending areas during Phase II is scaled back from $139,000 to ~$54,000.
- A new “educational exchange” component, which will bring a few Haitian workers to visit potential employers in the U.S. as part of the employer recruitment process, has been added for ~$47,000.
- Staff expenses are projected to rise by roughly $50,000 due to a few different changes (adding part of a program officer, going over budget and adding a month of salary for a program manager, reducing the time for which a community mobilizer will be hired).
- Many line items within the operational budget for Phase I changed, with only a limited overall effect (an increase of ~$10,000).
- Several line items in the budget for monitoring and support of migrants during their time in the U.S. were altered, with the overall impact of reducing that part of the budget from ~$95,000 to ~$68,000.
By design, the overall project budget remains unchanged at $1,490,504, and the second tranche ($1,039,850) is now scheduled to last through the end of November 2015 (an additional month).10
4 Other updates
The only other major update to our understanding of the project was learning that the duration of H-2A visits might be shorter than we had anticipated. We had assumed that H-2A participants would make $10,000 more than if they stayed in Haiti, which is slightly more than half the $19,000 difference in annual income between a year-round H-2A worker and an average Haitian farm worker. We had not investigated average stay durations, but expected them to be less than a year, and chose $10,000 to be somewhat conservative (and to reflect the possibility that the workers who eventually come to the US might have higher-than-average counterfactual wages in Haiti).
However, on average H-2A workers stay for less than half of a full year – approximately 5.5 months on average for the workers recruited by the North Carolina Growers Association – and workers recruited by the IOM program may have shorter-than-average stays.11 If, hypothetically, Haitian H-2A workers were to only average 4-month stays, the expected benefits per person would fall to ~$6,000 and the total transfers to Haitians due to the project in the first year would fall to less than half of the project cost.12 On the other hand, this calculation is largely speculative, and the Haitian workers could end up with longer average stays than those recruited by the North Carolina Growers Association (though we would not guess this to be the case).
Regardless, we continue to believe that the possibility of starting a sustainable program of Haitian access to the H-2A program justifies the overall investment in the project. Conditional on success in initially reaching approximately 100 Haitian workers – which we think has become more likely due to the project’s progress – our assessment of the likelihood that the program will be sustainable in the long run remains unchanged.13
When we initially made this grant, we established two conditions for the release of the second tranche of funding:
- The identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers.
- Evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2A visas.
While the second condition was met, the first condition was not, and we now consider it to have been unrealistic.
Overall, we see the risk that the project fails to arrange H-2A work for roughly 100 Haitians as much reduced relative to when we granted the first tranche, and we have decided to grant the second tranche of funds.
6 Supplementary documents
In March 2015, we received the following documents from IOM:
At IOM’s request, we redacted the names of specific farmers and consultants in the interim report and are not posting Annex 1, which contains the agenda and participant list for the November 2014 stakeholder meeting.
In June 2015, we received a progress update, available here, with notes from our discussion here.
In August 2015, we received a revised budget, available here, covering the period through the end of November 2015. We anticipate publishing a more substantive narrative update by the end of 2015, in concert with a decision about whether to grant further support for the project.
|Clemens 2011||Source (archive)|
|Email from Dmitry Poletayev (IOM) on December 10, 2014||Unpublished|
|GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014||Source|
|IOM H-2A December Status Update||Source|
|IOM H-2A December Status Update – Annex 1||Unpublished|
|IOM H-2A Presentation, November 14, 2014||Source|
|IOM H-2A Phase 2 Budget Modification||Source|
|IOM Project Budget||Source|