If you started fantasizing about living in Vermont last May, when the state passed a new law offering to pay remote workers up to $10,000 to relocate, the time has come to make your maple-syrup-coated dreams a reality. Applications open on January 1.
To get a grant, remote workers will need to move to Vermont first–the program offers reimbursements, not money in advance. But for those who relocate this year and can prove that they have full-time remote jobs, it’s possible to get paid back for moving expenses, internet bills, or membership in a coworking space like Study Hall, a sunny loft with exposed brick walls in a 1890s building in downtown Burlington. The program offers up to $5,000 a year for two years.
For the state, the program is one way to try to address its shrinking population. “We’re the second-to-smallest state in the nation, and we’re also getting older, so we really need to make sure there’s more of a workforce here,” says Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development, which is running the Remote Worker Grant Program. The entire state has a population of a little more than 600,000, roughly the size of Louisville, Kentucky.
Vermont also recognized that a growing number of Americans work remotely–nearly two-thirds of companies today have remote workers, and one recent survey found that hiring managers think it will continue to become even more common–and that many city dwellers elsewhere are struggling with rent on increasingly overpriced apartments.
“If you’re into a smaller way of living–getting to know your neighbors, and being involved in your community–[Vermont] may be appealing to you,” she says. It’s also affordable. The median home value in Brattleboro, roughly two hours from Boston, is less than $200,000; a one-bedroom apartment a short walk from the local co-op (and a small coworking space) goes for $850 a month.
The state also recently launched “Stay to Stay,” a program that encourages weekend visitors to spend an extra day in Vermont to meet with local employers and real estate agents as an attempt to help find workers to fill vacant positions. The new grant for remote workers won’t go very far–the budget for 2019 is $125,000, and will be given out on a first-come, first served basis. But the fact that the program exists may convince some others to move anyway. The state heard from some people who decided to move in 2018, even though they wouldn’t be eligible for a grant, and from someone who decided to relocate his business to Vermont after seeing articles about the idea.
“We’re not going to be able to satisfy everybody because we have a limited amount of money, but I think this is a very good indicator that people are interested or would be interested in moving to Vermont, and it might have been off their radar, but this has brought it prominently to the forefront,” says Goldstein. The idea also may be inspiring others to go even further: A nonprofit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, announced in November that it would offer remote workers or entrepreneurs who try living and working there for a year $10,000 in cash, plus a free coworking membership, a discount on rent in a high-end furnished apartment, and free utilities for three months.