These small towns will pay you to live there during the pandemic

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While the pandemic has vastly restricted our social interactions, it's freed many of us to work from, well, anywhere we want. If you have the privilege of being able to work remotely, and harbor dreams of quiet, small town living, now’s the time to manifest them because these towns will literally pay you to live there. It's a win-win situation: The towns invest in you, and you support their local businesses, which have been hard-hit during the pandemic.

Natchez, Mississippi, nestled along the Mississippi River, will cover $2,500 in moving expenses and $300 in living expenses every month for a year as part of its Shift South program, CNN reports. To qualify, you need to be a remote worker employed in the U.S., and buy a home with a value of at least $150,000, where you must live for a year or more. You also have to make Natchez your primary residence. The city’s mayor, Dan Gibson, anticipates the increase in property and sales taxes will yield a return on investment in roughly two years’ time.

Those accepted into Northwest Arkansas’s Life Works Here Program will get $10,000 plus a bike to explore the trails that crisscross the region, tucked in the Ozarks, for those who want to channel their inner Ruth Langmore (minus the whole money laundering thing). Not outdoorsy? You can opt for annual museum membership instead. To qualify, you need to be at least 24, employed to work full-time in the U.S., and able to move within six months’ of acceptance.

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And while they’re bigger than small towns, a few cities in the heartland have similar initiatives for those seeking a slower-paced, yet not-so-isolated life. The Choose Topeka program will pay you up to $5,000 to help cover a year’s worth of rent, or up to $10,000 to help cover the purchase of a home. The big requirement is that your employer has to be outside Shawnee County. Tulsa is also sweetening the pot for remote workers with its own incentive program.

For someplace tropical, Hawaii’s Movers and Shakas initiative will cover your trip, and offer discounts on coworking spaces and lodging, according to U.S. News and World Report. The arrangement is built on reciprocity: In exchange for working remotely in Hawaii, you need to agree to engage in local nonprofit work for three to five hours every week. The communities could use the help — the pandemic has dealt the state’s tourism-based economy a major blow.

The hustle of urban life is invigorating, but amid COVID, many feel like grim shadows of themselves. Now is a good as time as any to live your small town dreams, and enjoy the lower cost of living while you’re at it.