Is Vermont’s remote-worker program a model?
The state of Vermont is hoping two new grant programs will help remedy a serious workforce challenge.
The state’s population has remained stagnant for more than five years. Likewise, more than 20% of its roughly 627,000 residents will be 65 or older by 2026. If the nation’s unemployment stays as low as the current 3.7% rate, Vermont employers could be headed into a perfect worker-shortage storm.
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So, state legislators launched the State of Vermont Remote Worker Grant Program in January. The state would reimburse remote workers—anyone who lived outside the state—up to $5,000 for relocating to Vermont, explains Joan Goldstein, the state’s commissioner of economic development. So far, she says, 70 individuals—ranging from architects to insurance adjustors—have moved with their families from California, Texas, Florida and other states, totaling 170 new residents.
“Our department was tasked with implementing [the program],” she says, adding that the legislature allocated $500,000 in grant monies over the next three years.
The amount of press generated since the governor signed the program into law last June, she says, has been “humongous.” The state’s website received billions of hits, and the program gained so much momentum that people from different countries have expressed interest.
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Nine months later, Goldstein’s office still receives several applications each week. To qualify, she says, candidates must first establish residency, show employer verification of their remote-worker status and then offer proof of expenses, which could include costs for moving, broadband hookup or even rent for shared office space.