MONTPELIER – For several years, Vermont has used an incentive program in an attempt to attract new residents and chip away at the state’s longstanding demographic challenges. Now, lawmakers are hoping to re-up the New Vermont Employee Incentive Program with an emphasis on drawing in people who work from home.
The concept of offering a cash incentive to relocate to Vermont has managed to grab attention, with hundreds of people taking advantage of the program. In an era where more people are able to work from home, Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein said this year could bring a big boost to the program.
“We want more people to live here, remote work is becoming much more the norm, we want to capitalize on that, and also we need workforce,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said the program isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ for Vermont’s workforce woes, but as the state mulls significant investments in areas like housing and broadband using federal COVID-19 relief, it all comes back to a lack of employees.”
We have all this ARPA money, we want to build things and create housing and all of that, that’s great,” Goldstein said. “If we don’t have the workforce to pull it off, it’d be a tragedy… Maybe we don’t have to continually pay people to move here, but I think initially we need workforce and we need to acknowledge it.”
People could receive up to $5,000 for moving anywhere in Vermont, but there’s also enhanced grants of up to $7,500 for those who move to economically challenged areas.
Peter Tucker, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs with the Vermont Association of Realtors, believes the state should reconsider the location-based aspect of the incentive.
“We just feel its a kind of program where you’re going to have to move where the people want to move, so keeping it as flexible as possible would be positive,” Tucker said.
Tucker added that housing needs to remain part of the conversation, and praised Governor Phil Scott’s proposal to invest $249 million in affordable housing. Tucker said right now, there isn’t a lot on the market to accommodate growth in the workforce.
“You can provide all the moving assistance you wanted, we have to be able to provide good housing, workforce housing for that first time home-buyer, or somebody moving here for a new job and we’re just missing the mark,” Tucker said.
The Vermont Senate approved the continuation of the program last month. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development.
Since Vermont launched the New Vermont Employee Incentive Program in 2019, hundreds of people have relocated to the state, and other areas of the country have launched similar incentives.