The release of a new batch of seasonal worker visas is sending Maine hotels and restaurant owners scrambling to submit applications before the supply of new visas is exhausted.

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security approved the release of an additional 15,000 H-2B visas, which allow seasonal, nonfarm workers to come to the United States for jobs that can’t be filled by American workers. Employers that had previously sought visas through this program will have to reapply through a new process, according to Steve Hewins, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association and Maine Innkeepers Association.

“This action is certainly welcome; however, it will not recover the losses that many hospitality businesses have incurred so far this season,” Hewins said in a statement. “Still, we will take any help and it could have a positive impact for the latter part of our season, and especially during Maine’s increasingly important period from Labor Day through Columbus Day.”

Details on the language of the ruling are expected in the next day or so, Hewins said, which may provide some clarity on the status of applications submitted under the previous visa allocation. Maine sought roughly 2,000 H-2B visas, of which 700 were approved this spring.

Maine’s hospitality industry has been struggling to fill positions since the start of the summer tourism season. Unemployment levels below 3 percent in much of southern Maine, coupled with stalled visa applications and new minimum wage rules, have made hiring especially difficult this year.

“There is no set amount of H-2B workers allocated to Maine, so we are advising our members to apply immediately as the department is issuing visas on a first-come, first-served basis,” Hewins said.

In 2016, the government offered twice as many H-2B visas as it did this year when it adopted a limit of 66,000. That cap was reached in March, leaving many businesses without the workers they expected. Some Maine hotels and restaurants have limited their hours or closed off blocks of rooms because they don’t have enough workers.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was given authority to offer more than 60,000 extra visas this year as part of a government spending bill Congress passed in May. In the statement, the department said Kelly was concerned Congress was “passing the buck” by not designating a specific number of visas and hoped the one-time occurrence was an anomaly.

The delay in issuing the extra visas was strongly criticized by Maine’s congressional delegation, which had been lobbying DHS and the Department of Labor to make more visas available to help struggling Maine hotels and restaurants. Tourism is often touted as Maine’s largest industry, accounting for $6 billion in spending last year.

Today’s decision was welcomed by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King.

“Although this should have happened much earlier, we are pleased to see that Maine businesses will now have the opportunity to hire the additional temporary workers they need to keep their doors open this summer,” they said in a joint statement. “We urge the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security to expedite the processing of applications to ensure that Maine businesses are not further harmed by additional delays. Every day that passes without these workers threatens Maine businesses and our state’s economy.”

Staff Writer Peter McGuire contributed to this story.