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Lesser bill would pay workers to live here, work remotely

  • SEN. ERIC LESSER,D-Longmeadow SEN. ERIC LESSER,D-Longmeadow



Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2019

For people considering work from home or a co-working space in a big city like Boston, state Sen. Eric Lesser has a pitch: Move to western Massachusetts instead and the state will reimburse your moving expenses.

That’s the gist of a new bill that Lesser, D-Longmeadow, filed at the beginning of the new legislative session. Titled “An Act establishing the Western Massachusetts remote worker relocation incentive program,” the bill would reimburse workers up to $10,000 in relocation and setup costs if they move to one of the state’s four westernmost counties, and if they are employed by a company located outside the region.

There is precedent for the legislation in the region. Vermont is experimenting with a very similar idea, paying people as much as $10,000 to live there and work remotely.

“The inspiration was the Vermont bill,” Lesser said. “We have very similar challenges to Vermont in western Massachusetts.”

Among the expenses that would be covered under Lesser’s bill are relocation to the area, computer software and hardware, broadband internet and membership at a co-working space.

The state’s Department of Economic Development would award grants to eligible workers, with a limit of $5,000 per year and no more than $10,000 over the life of the program. The grants would be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, totaling a maximum of $1 million in grants from 2020 through 2022.

“We understand that this is a new idea, and so it’s a three-year pilot,” Lesser said.

The bill is part of a range of policies Lesser said are needed to “spread out some of the hyper, hyper growth we see in Boston” to other parts of the state. Other such policies Lesser said he is working on are improved rail service, broadband access and rural school aid.

Lesser said the state routinely gives out job incentives, but always gives them to companies. He singled out the $125 million in state incentives that General Electric received when it moved to Boston, promising 800 new jobs in the city.

“Why don’t we give the incentive directly to the worker?” Lesser said. “It’s much, much cheaper.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.