As we have reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged not only the employment relationship but also how local government may lessen the economic impact of the pandemic. The governments of Barbados, Estonia and Malta, among others, have implemented measures to support the local economy by either allowing individuals to live in the country while they work for foreign employers or incentivizing independent travelers to visit the country. Now, two Italian towns, specifically Santa Fiora in Tuscany and Rieti in Lazio, may be added to the list of countries, regions and cities that are attempting to revitalize the local economy by offering benefits to lure newcomers.
Although rents in both Santa Fiora and Rieti already are relatively low, both towns will pay individuals up to 50% of their rent should they move and telecommute on a long-term basis. To qualify for the program, applicants must have an “active” job that they may perform remotely. This type of “smart working village” is becoming common in Italy, as local governments continue to invest in high-speed internet access to encourage individuals to work remotely from depopulated towns severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For teleworkers interested in relocating to and renting a house in Santa Fiora, located in Tuscany, the government is offering up to €200 per month or 50% of the total rent for long-term stays of between two and six months. The cost of a typical rental in Santa Fiora ranges from €300 to €500 per month, meaning that the rent of individuals who move to Santa Fiora may be as little as €100 per month. The local town hall has launched a website to advertise rentals. The website also provides contact information for plumbers, baby sitters, doctors, electricians and food delivery services to help those relocating adjust to the community.
To qualify for the program, individuals must prove that they will be teleworking from Santa Fiora by providing a detailed document of their job with their application form. Individuals also must provide the Mayor’s Office with proof of their rental unit in order to receive monthly rental vouchers.
In addition, Santa Fiora is offering individuals up to €30,000 to open a Bed and Breakfast or to restyle an old dwelling into a hotel or hostel. A “baby bonus” of up to €1,500 also is being offered to individuals who take up residency in Santa Fiora and have a child.
Closer to Rome, Rieti is one of the largest cities in the Lazio region, although its population growth has stagnated because younger Italians in the region are relocating to Rome in search of employment opportunities. The local government hopes that teleworkers will help revive the city.
The Rieti relocation program offers rent vouchers that may be extended beyond six months. To qualify for the program, individuals must provide the local authorities with a preliminary lease agreement. Employees also must provide a letter from their boss to prove their status as a remote worker. Freelancers may provide a simple description of their professional work.
Rents in Rieti range from €250 to €500, and a more expensive countryside villa may cost up to €600.
We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic affects employment relations and how governments across the world are attempting to revitalize local economies.