Vermont is offering people up to $10,000 to move there and work remotely, in an effort to diversify its aging population.
The Green Mountain State, which passed legislation creating the Remote Worker Grant Programin July, hopes the initiative will recruit new residents to make communities more viable and share the tax burden, but has received mixed reactions from both its residents and people from out of state.
Under the Remote Worker Grant Program, Vermont will pay people $5,000 per year for up to two years — the second year’s payment, which is not guaranteed, depends on whether participants have additional relocation or work expenses and re-apply for the grant. The program has a $125,000 budget, and applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis, says Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development.
The money can’t be used for just anything; it has to be used for moving expenses, coworking memberships or other work-related items such as software.
bOther states are testing out similar programs. Tulsa, Oa furnished apartment to remote workers who relocate to the city. New Haven, Connecticut, is offering up to $80,000 in incentives for new homeowners who are moving from out of state.
Vermont’s program launched Jan. 1, but Goldstein says her office has already received 3,000 requests to be on a mailing list, and they have been fielding questions from callers ever since the legislation was passed.
“We’re very happy about the level of enthusiasm,” she says, adding that people have become more aware of opportunities in Vermont, and those who have been thinking of moving to the state now have an extra push.
Vermont’s population is the third oldest in the nation, with a median age of 43, which is five years older than the national average. An influx of young people could help diversify the state’s economy and keep its population from dwindling.
klahoma, announced a program in November that will offer membership to a coworking space and three months of discounted rent on Goldstein recognizes, though, that many people have doubts about the program and its goals.
“A lot of people, they’re concerned or they’re not getting it. They’re like, ‘Why are you paying people from outside and you’re not paying Vermonters?'” she says. “But I think they understand that there is an issue about getting more people, and the more people that come to the state, the more we can share the tax burden.”
Still, some opponents argue that the state should focus on retaining young people who already live in the state and making the state more affordable for residents before spending money on recruiting new residents.
“We have a massive debt, so why are we giving away a whole bunch of money when there’s a lot of really hungry young people that are starving to get an education?” says Laura Tatro, 70, who has lived in Vermont for 25 years with her husband, Dennis.
Dennis Tatro adds that the state should work on adjusting its laws that deter businesses from moving there so that young people don’t feel like they have to move out of state in order to land a decent-paying job.
“That money would be much more wisely spent if (Vermont) relaxed some of these business laws and made the state much more enticing to move in,” he says.
Laura Tatro points out that the program does not offer grant recipients a reason to stay more than two years, and wonders whether $5,000 a year is enough to make up for the state’s high rent, taxes and electric bills. At 1.78 percent, Vermont had the eighth-highest effective property tax rate in the U.S. in 2016 (the most recent year for which this data is available).
This isn’t the first time the state has taken a unique approach to attract out-of-staters. Vermont launched a Stay to Stay program in March 2018, where people can sign up for a trip that is marketed as a mix of a vacation and a way to decide if they want to move there.
Guests are greeted by local officials and enjoy a welcome reception when they arrive Friday night and then have the rest of the weekend to explore the state. Come Monday, they are invited to local businesses’ open houses and can even meet with realtors to find a potential new home. Four trips garnered a total of 140 participants, seven of whom have moved to the state, according to Goldstein.
Brandon Rapp, who lives in Pennsylvania, attended a Stay to Stay trip in Bennington last August. He says he learned about employment options in Vermont and got an idea of Bennington’s culture.
While he’s kept in touch with some of the other attendees and says he knows of at least two people who opted to move to Vermont after the trip, he and his wife are still on the fence about relocating. Still, “(the trip) was much, much better than anything I would have thought it would have been,” Rapp says.