Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Program that pays remote employees to move to Vermont succeeding; new program aims to lure workers for local jobs

A state program to pay remote workers to move to Vermont is succeeding beyond officials' initial expectations. "Originally, state officials said they’d select 100 people to receive as much as $10,000 in the first year of the Remote Worker Grant Program, and then 20 people in the following years," Emma Coleman reports for Route Fifty. "Each new resident would submit moving expenses, membership fees for coworking spaces, broadband costs, or security deposits for reimbursement up to $5,000 per year for two years."

News media across the country covered the story, which apparently led to far more interest than officials had anticipated. After receiving thousands of inquiries, the state Department of Economic Development decided to expand the program, Commissioner Joan Goldstein said. The department had planned to distribute $125,000 in incentives from January to June of this year, but spent it all by April. The state allocated more funds in July and eliminated the annual cycle, meaning people can apply until the remaining $375,000 is gone, Coleman reports.

How effective has the program been? Since January, 170 people (including family members of workers) have relocated to Vermont. "It’s a great outcome," Goldstein told Coleman. "People are moving from metropolitan areas all over the country, and moving into rural areas and small towns, just spreading out throughout the state."

Goldstein's office is working on a new, similar program meant to recruit workers for local jobs (no freelancers). "Her department has over $1 million to start allocating in January of 2020 to people who accept new positions in Vermont. The new program provides $5,000 for one year (or $7,500 if moving to a rural area of the state) to qualifying applicants on an approved occupational list, whose new jobs pay them at or above 160 percent of the minimum wage," Coleman reports.

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