If you’ve been priced out of living in cities like San Francisco or New York, Vermont wants you to consider an alternative. In a new program that will begin next year, the state will pay relocation costs for workers who get jobs at Vermont companies. It’s a variation on another program, launched earlier this year, that reimburses remote workers up to $10,000 when they move to the state. The governor is expected to sign the new program into law on Wednesday.
“Over the past decade, we’ve lost population, and we’ve lost workforce,” says Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development. The median age in Vermont is nearly five years older than the U.S. as a whole, and as Vermonters retire, businesses are struggling to find employees. “We need to recruit people to the state so that we get some more net in-migration and to make up for that aging workforce.”
People who are interested in moving can contact state officials through a program called ThinkVermont, which can then connect them with local employers. It’s not unusual that people consider the appeal of moving to the state, Goldstein says. (A CNBC report in 2018 ranked Vermont as the best place to live in the U.S. based on the natural environment, health, low crime, and other factors; the state is also known for its local food, breweries, charming towns, and progressive politics.) But would-be residents are often concerned about finding work. “Typically, you’ll say, ‘Well, what am I going to do up in Vermont?'” she says. “That’s what has not been immediately apparent. It’s our job to make it apparent to people that there are opportunities here. There are a number of employers that are looking for talented employees.”
Jobs range from entry-level roles at resorts to software development or healthcare positions. Once someone is hired and moves, if the move happens after next January 1, they’ll be able to bill Vermont for moving expenses. The program will pay as much as $5,000 in some areas, like Burlington, that have larger populations, and as much as $7,500 in most other smaller towns, like Brattleboro or Bennington. When the state started giving out its current grants for remote workers, Goldstein says that people were often interested in moving to small towns or villages. “Especially people coming from big metro areas, they tend to not want to locate in another metro area,” she says. “They’re looking for the country.”
Other states and cities are testing similar programs. In rural Kansas, some counties will pay off $15,000 of student loan debt for recent grads who relocate. The tiny town of Curtis, Nebraska, pays families up to $1,000 and offers free land to those who want to build a home. A bill in Massachusetts would pay remote workers to move to the western part of the state. In Tulsa, remote workers can get $10,000 in cash to try living in the city, in addition to a discount on rent and a free coworking membership. Maine partners with some employers who pay for the cost of a vacation in the state for visitors who later decide to relocate. In areas where populations are shrinking, it’s likely that others will continue to make similar offers. “I think you’re going to see more and more of this,” says Goldstein. “We have to try harder and come up with new and creative ways to attract people.”