Imagine getting paid to move to a new state and still keep your current job.
Thanks to Vermont's new Remote Worker Grant Program, you might soon be able to do that.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed legislation that would pay people up to $10,000 to move to the state in 2019. The money could go toward moving costs, or to pay rent in a coworking space.
Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development who's working on putting the program together, says lawmakers felt they needed to think outside the box to address the state's demographic challenges.
"Vermont is a very, very small state. I mean we have just shy of 630,000 people, and we're the third-oldest state in terms of demographic," Goldstein says. "So that's a very challenging environment in order to maintain vitality of the communities."
On the kind of person Vermont is trying to attract
"All kinds of people. I mean, I have to say since the governor signed it in last week, we have received nearly 1,000 emails from individuals that are interested with their stories. So from Ph.D.s, writers, software developers, architect drafters, all kinds of people are asking about how they could participate in this program. So I think it kind of reflects the economy that the world is in — actually we've received inquiries from all over the nation, but all over the world — the independent nature of work right now, and the dependency upon communications structures to do your work from anywhere.
"I think any age is great. People do focus on younger workers, millennials. We've gotten, just from the response, everybody from just recent college grads up until people that are in their 60s. So I'd say we're equal opportunity. We don't want to just have one type of person here. I moved up to Vermont when I was in my mid 40s, and I think it's good for any age."
"We have just shy of 630,000 people, and we're the third-oldest state in terms of demographic. So that's a very challenging environment in order to maintain vitality of the communities."Joan Goldstein
On why the state wants to pay people to come live there
"The governor recognized, the legislature recognized, we need more people in the state. And so we need to try different things, new things. It's interesting to see how many people are interested in Vermont. It's not really a surprise, there's millions of visitors each year. So we want to figure out a way that we could turn visitors and people who love the state into residents."
On how Vermont is going to improve its utilities to support the project
"We do have broadband in most of the downtowns all over the state. In fact, Burlington has fiber gigabit, so does Springfield and so do some small towns on the west side of the state. So there is that recognition. Obviously there's more work to do, especially in the kind of last mile and on the back roads, but we do have [enough connectivity] to at least have it in the coworking spaces that are located throughout the state."
"The beauty can't be underestimated. If you have an option of where you want to work, why would you not want to work in a much more aesthetically pleasing place?"Joan Goldstein
On backlash from some Vermont residents
"I mean we don't think that this is a panacea, that this is going to solve all of our demographic issues. There are a fair amount of programs available currently for workers in the state. We started at the session where we wanted this type of incentive to appeal to not only remote workers but people who were going to work from brick-and-mortar organizations. But like any legislation, you don't get everything that you ask for. There will always be critics, there will be fans. We need net influx of people, and this is one step in that direction."
On other incentives besides money
"The beauty can't be underestimated. If you have an option of where you want to work, why would you not want to work in a much more aesthetically pleasing place? The second thing that really attracts the outdoor recreation folks: If you like to ski or hike or fish or garden or any of the outdoor sorts of recreation, it's plentiful.
"And the other thing [is] that the smaller scale allows people to really make a difference. If you're in a small community, they're dependent upon people to volunteer, to help make the place a better environment. So you have ample opportunity to make a difference, and it's noticed."
On whether neighboring states will try to compete with Vermont's program
"I'm sure they will. I mean, this sort of issue and demographic is not unique to Vermont. Most of New England is dealing with this, in fact most rural areas in general are dealing with this issue as more and more people move to metropolitan areas. So yeah, we fully expect there's going to be competition, for sure."
This segment aired on June 7, 2018.
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