Vermont Governor Phil Scott has signed into legislation that will pay people to relocate to the state in a bid to grow the state’s flagging taxbase and reinvigorate the economy — by attracting workers who sign in online to work elsewhere.
The “Remote Worker Grant Program” went into effect on May 30.
The governor wants to re-brand the state’s image from projecting ski vacations and maple system to empowering education and entrepreneurship. Applicants must relocate to the state and be able to take care of themselves via remote working.
Vermont will pay eligible workers $5,000 a year over a two-year period. The state has earmarked $125,000 in funds for 100 remote workers in 2019.
The budget increases in 2020 to $250,000, then drops back down to $125,000 in 2021.
If the three-year pilot program is successful, then 20 new remote working applicants will be accepted annually thereafter.
The money can be spent on relocations costs, work-related computer expenses and coworker space.
For eligibility, applicants must work full-time outside of Vermont and become a fulltime Vermont resident after January 2019.
Some legislative hopes of the program are to replenish its workforce and aging population.
“We have about 16,000 fewer workers than we did in 2009. That’s why expanding our workforce is one of the top priorities of my administration,” said Scott.
“We must think outside the box to help more Vermonters enter the labor force and attract more working families and young professionals to Vermont.”
Vermont has a population just over 620,000.
Critics of Vermont’s Remote Worker Grant Program contend that there is no way to know if the program will increase the total population number.
Also, critics say, the program won’t truly add to the state workforce since applicants will come from out-of-state and work remotely. The money they earn might be spent locally but it won’t be a net add of jobs in the state.
Jen Oldham, the executive director of Vermont Works for Women, believes that the remote worker program grant money should be used for Vermont-centric purposes.
“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to lure people to move to Vermont,” said Oldham.
“But it is difficult seeing $500,000 from the State General Fund appropriated to recruit remote workers who won’t even be part of the Vermont workforce, knowing that untapped economic potential exists in the female population of Vermont.”
Joan Goldstein, commissioner of economic development for Vermont, stresses that applicants must pay local income taxes.
“You will have to pay income tax in Vermont even if you earn it outside of the state,” said Goldstein.
“The whole idea of getting more people is because we need to broaden the tax base … but if you are moving from New York, taxes are less here.”
Adam Grinold, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, has hope for the program.
“We need more visitors, we need more employees, we need more business owners. We need more people,” said Grinold.
To apply, stay updated with Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development website as details are finalized. Current Vermont residents are not eligible.