Indiana could soon start offering a financial incentive to lure remote workers to the state if a bill being considered by the Legislature becomes law.
House Bill 1416 would establish a remote worker grant program that would offer out-of-state individuals either up to $5,000 or $8,500 to relocate to Indiana.
The House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee passed the bill 10-1 on Tuesday. It heads to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
The bill’s author, Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, said the program would allow Indiana to take advantage of the growing work-from-home trend caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It would be similar to programs that dozens of other cities and states across the country have launched to provide a variety of incentives, including housing enticements, moving expenses and up to $20,000 in cash, depending on the salary of the job a remote worker brings and the length of time they commit to stay.
With millions of individuals across the country working remotely now, Indiana should try to attract some of those workers to live here, Carbaugh said. But without attractive elements such as oceans or mountains, Indiana might not be at the top of someone’s list, he acknowledged.
“This is the $5 off coupon to get you to come into the store,” Carbaugh said. “If people have that coupon, I think people are going to check out Indiana.”
To be eligible, the worker would have to be living out-of-state for at least the past three years, be a full-time employee and work from home or in a co-working space a majority of the time. The individual could not receive the grant until he or she had lived in Indiana for one year.
The maximum grant amount would be $8,500 for an individual earning more than $100,000 and up to $5,000 for someone earning less than $100,000.
The funding could be used for moving expenses, computer equipment, internet access or a co-working space membership.
The Indiana Destination Development Corp. would be responsible for administering the program.
The bill does not currently include an appropriation, but Carbaugh said he’s proposing the program start with $1.5 million for two years. That would allow for $400,000 of grants to be made in the first year and $600,000 to be awarded in the second year. The remaining $500,000 would be used to cover the administrative and marketing costs of the program.
Carbaugh said he believes the economic benefits from the new residents would exceed the costs of the program.
State Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, questioned whether the incentive is the right policy, because the state already has plenty of residents working here and paying taxes, he said.
“Why don’t we give the incentive to somebody who’s already here?” Andrade said.
Jennifer Hallowell, with the Indiana Technology and Innovation Association, said other cities and states have seen the benefits of these types of programs. For example, she said, a program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, paid for itself within the first year due to tax revenue increasing.
“Indiana has an opportunity to seize on this historic trend,” Hallowell said.