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By Ana Lucia Murillo
September 3, 2021
Photograph of a  Welcome To Vermont. The Green Mountain State  sign
Getty Images

Vermont is looking for more workers, and it's willing to pay. New residents of the Green Mountain State can get up to $7,500 if they’re up for working in short-staffed industries like childcare, construction or restaurants. It’s a sweet deal for those interested in relocating to what's generally considered the country’s most environmentally-friendly state.

Cities and states eager to boost the local population have been using cash incentives and other promotions to draw in workers for a while now. These programs are primarily in rural states and cities that have been experiencing a net loss in population for years.

Rural areas in the U.S. are seeing slower population growth than cities, and because so many people can work remotely from any location now, it's theoretically easier to attract high-income earners to help the local economy. Interest in escaping crowded cities for more rural surroundings increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, making these relocation incentive programs especially intriguing.

Earlier this spring an incentive offering remote workers up to $12,000 to move to Morgantown, West Virginia, created so much buzz that 7,500 people applied for just 53 spots. That’s a 0.7% acceptance rate, which is many times more competitive than the nation’s most selective colleges.

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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced this week that all 7,500 applicants will receive $2,500 from Rocket Mortgage to help with mortgage costs if they choose to move to the state on their own and buy a home.

The struggle to find workers to hire is a problem nationally. Job openings are at record highs, and employers across the country say they’ve had a hard time filling empty positions, despite unemployment levels that are still higher than pre-pandemic times. Restaurants and other low-wage service jobs are experiencing especially severe worker shortages, and big retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Costco have been increasing worker pay as a means to attract and retain employees.

Even before the arrival of the state's new incentive program, Vermont had been experiencing an influx of city-dwellers during the pandemic. "No regrets," newcomer and former Boston-area resident Matt Plouffe told Burlington’s NBC station in March. "I definitely breathe better — that's for sure.”

There's also been some tension. One Vermont town clerk came under fire for putting a derogatory message toward newcomers on the cover of an annual town report. "You came here from there because you didn’t like there, and now you want to change here to be like there," the message said. "If you want here to be like there you should not have left there to come here, and you are invited to leave here and go back there at your earliest convenience." The clerk later apologized.

Vermont's new worker relocation grants will reimburse up to $7,500 in expenses — such as moving costs, lease deposits and their first month of rent — for those who moved to the state after July 1, 2021.

In order to qualify, grant winners must find full-time work in Vermont as cashiers, bartenders, home health aides, cashiers, laborers, landscapers, carpenters, farmers or in dozens of other positions that are the most needed in the state. Everyone must be paid a minimum of $13.39 per hour, which is considered the living wage in Vermont.

Applications are now open here and being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. And the incentives for moving to Vermont aren't limited to those taking on in-demand jobs. A fresh round of remote worker relocation grants are also available in the state next year. The grants will reimburse workers who move to Vermont on or after Feb. 1, 2022, for up to $7,500 in moving expenses. Previous versions of the program, started in 2018, awarded more than 300 grants worth up to $10,000 to workers who moved to the state.

If Vermont doesn't interest you, it may be worth considering relocation incentive programs in other parts of the country. Tulsa, Oklahoma, Savannah, Georgia, and Topeka, Kansas are among the other places offering cash for new residents. And West Virginia is now accepting applicants for another round of its $12,000 incentive program, this one for new residents in the city of Lewisburg.

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