Joe Murphy

A group of senators is discussing the idea of giving state grants of up to $5000 to new remote workers in Iowa who telecommute to jobs out-of-state.

“We really believe tools like this, tactics like this should be explored in a serious way,” said Joe Murphy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council, which represents Iowa’s 22 largest employers. “We should be doing everything we can to invite new Iowans coming into our state from out of state.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Iowa’s population grew by just 4000 people from mid-2019 to mid-2020. Craig Patterson, a lobbyist for the Professional Developers of Iowa, said more new Iowans are needed to help existing businesses grow and bring new businesses here.

“Population is just a huge issue that our folks run into,” Patterson said.

The original concept was to give at least 100 grants in each of the next five years to cover the costs of someone moving to Iowa and setting up to work from home for an out-of-state company. However, the latest version of the bill also would make residents of the state’s 30 largest cities eligible for the grants if they move to rural Iowa or an Iowa city with a population under 15-thousand. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said that makes no sense if the goal is to expand Iowa’s population.

“There’s no benefit to the overall Iowa economy if we’re stealing a job from Des Moines and, you know, moving it maybe 50 miles west into a smaller community,” Dotzler said.

A senate subcommittee reviewed the proposal this week, but temporarily tabled it as senators consider making changes.