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Topeka, Kansas, is offering people $15,000 to move there, and Airbnb will throw in a free stay to 'entice remote working talent'

"It allows people to discover Topeka from the neighborhood up."

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Courtesy Greater Topeka Partnership

Since 2019, the Choose Topeka program has offered up to $15,000 for a lucky few who are willing to relocate to Kansas' state capital.

However, this year the program is adding a new incentive through a partnership with Airbnb. People who are unsure whether they want to move to Topeka can, if selected, get a free Airbnb stay in the area to feel out what it's like to live in Shawnee County, where Topeka is located. There is no set number of days on such stays, but Airbnb did give the program a limited total budget.

Even though the program has partnered with hotels in the past to offer free stays to applicants, the partnership with Airbnb will better show what it's like to be a local in Topeka, says Bob Ross, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Greater Topeka Partnership. "A lot of applicants have never even been to Topeka, or even the Midwest," Ross points out.

This partnership "allows people to discover Topeka from the neighborhood up," he adds. "They are looking to move here permanently, so being able to stay at some of these properties and see how each area has it its own flavor and personality" can help.

Topeka is one of nine similar programs Airbnb is partnering with around the country, all of which have the mission to relocate people to their areas, says Liz DeBold Fusco, senior communications manager at Airbnb. Other programs include Tulsa Remote, Move to Michigan, and Remote Shoals.

"Airbnb stays can provide an opportunity for these programs to entice remote working talent and show what makes their city great," she says.

How Choose Topeka works

Since Choose Topeka launched in 2019, 5,000 people have applied for the program and only 40 have been accepted, Ross says. The average wage of workers accepted is $85,000, according to information from Go Topeka, the program that oversees Choose Topeka.

"We only expect to bring in 50 people a year," Ross says. "We're targeting the program toward young professionals. We're looking for people who want to get invested in our communities."

While there are no race or ethnicity quotas, Ross says the program is "actively looking at being intentionally diverse."

To apply, you must be able to work in the United States, move to Topeka for a full-time position, and buy or rent a home in Shawnee County.

The last requirement is that your employer must match the funds given by Choose Topeka. Half the relocation funds would have to come from an employer. Then Go Topeka, in partnership with the Joint Economic Development Organization, will match that employer incentive. 

A lot of applicants have never even been to Topeka, or even the Midwest.
Bob Ross
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Greater Topeka Partnership

Those buying or rehabilitating a home can get up to $15,000, and those renting can get up to $10,000. Through another partnership, if you live within a Jimmy John's delivery zone, you'll get an extra $1,000.

If you're currently working remotely, you can still apply to the program. However, the eligibility and incentives vary slightly. Your employer must be located outside Shawnee County. You can receive up to $5,000 in funds for renting during the first year, and up to $10,000 in funds for purchasing a home. You will never be required to find an employer within Shawnee County, though.

"Right now we've had about 15 remote workers accepted, including video game designers from Palo Alto and flight attendants," Ross says.

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Many local programs pay people to relocate

Choose Topeka is not the only program incentivizing people to relocate.

If you're willing to move to The Shoals in Alabama, you could receive up to $10,000 through the program Remote Shoals. You must make over $52,000 a year, be able to move to The Shoals within six months, and work remotely for a company outside the area.

Through Tulsa Remote, you can get $10,000 if you purchase a home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example. Or if you shift to Vermont and become a full-time employee of a Vermont business, you can receive up to $10,000 through the state's New Worker Relocation Grant Program.

With many companies updating their remote work policies, this might be a good year to apply to a relocation program and get paid to move.

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