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Hawaii offers free flights to remote workers

Hawaii is inviting Americans to live and work on the islands and will fly you to Oahu for free.

Movers and Shakas, a Hawaii-based volunteer-run organization, announced its new program to “recruit talented professionals to diversify [the] island economy by relocating to Hawaii.”

The catch: The opportunity is only open to adults currently living and working in the U.S. mainland and there are just 50 coveted spots. For those who are handpicked, the offer is an open-ended invitation, but the program does require participants to stay for at least 30 consecutive days.

The primary goal is to “help foster an economy that is resilient to economic downturns by seeding industries that aren’t necessarily tied to transportation across the ocean,” according to the program’s website. It also comes as the pandemic has curbed tourist traffic in the state, with travelers required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or produce a recent negative COVID-19 test.

“It’s not a destination that is easy or approachable for people right now because it is so complicated, it’s a long trip to get fouled up by,” said Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor at The Points Guy. “People were stuck because the restrictions changed while they were there.”

Where do you sign up?

The application is live for candidates who have the “Aloha Spirit,” want to invest themselves into the community, and sign a pledge to Keiki — a “commitment to respect and protect the life, lands, and waters of Hawaii.”

The selection process begins with a written application requiring basic information like name and intended length of stay, questions about volunteer experience, and two optional short-answer essays about how Hawaii will contribute to the applicant’s overall growth and why the applicant is a good fit for the program.

Finalists will be invited to sit for video interviews with the selection panel. After an invitation has been extended, awardees must move within one month or forfeit their spot.

But those merely looking for a free round-trip ticket to paradise and a change of scenery need not apply. Movers and Shakas is giving special consideration to those willing to share their professional experiences with local Hawaiian communities.

The organization is “looking for individuals with the right mindset, who are passionate about the values of Hawaii, and have the skills and expertise to contribute to our community,” according to the Movers and Shakas website.

In lieu of housing accommodations, Movers and Shakas will provide “heavily discounted” hotel stays and local resources for participants to secure housing. There will also be co-working space discounts and community-building opportunities to connect with the broader cohort.

Is this a bigger trend?

In recent months, tech companies like Zillow, Twitter, and Square have announced indefinite remote work arrangements for employees while other companies have demonstrated leniency for employees to make their work from home situations permanent.

Now that home base can be anywhere, many Americans are finding extended stays as a workaround to sidestep the cold winter months and get a change of scenery for a relatively nominal fee in places like Barbados, Jamaica, and Mexico.

Long-term residence programs similar to the Hawaii one have also cropped up in Caribbean and European nations, which lifted visa restrictions that previously applied to non-citizens, so visitors can live and work there, bolstering local economies.

“These countries are saying we’re pretty safe, weather is great, we’ll give you all the infrastructure that you need — hospital-wise and medical-wise —to feel comfortable that, if something happens, you’re not in the middle of the jungle,” Armond Arton, founder of Passport Index, told Yahoo Money.

While the countries will likely succeed in attracting a certain number of entrepreneurs, the influx will not be enough to replace the deficit created by a lack of tourism in 2020, Arton said. But it’s still better than nothing.

“The countries have to come up with ideas as well on how to survive because they don’t have the Federal Reserve or the Central Bank of Canada who can just print money and distribute checks with nice signatures,” he said. “So they have to be more creative.”

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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