Hawaii’s Movers and Shakas Will Pay You to Work Remotely

Already earlier this year, the “digital nomad visa” surfaced as tourism associations and immigration authorities in select countries – such as Bermuda and Iceland – have come together to make extended work holidays a legitimate option for remote workers in dire need of diverse landscapes.

But Americans don’t necessarily have to look beyond national borders. There are temporary residency programs across the country, in communities looking to welcome newcomers and the paychecks they bring with them. Just this week, a team of executives in Hawaii’s business community launched Movers and Shakas, an initiative to help both the troubled economy of the 50th state and the beleaguered workers on the mainland, exhausted from a long year and now dwelling, Winter is supposed to bring relief.

The concept is pretty simple: Americans who do not currently live in Hawaii can apply for a remote job in the islands for an extended period (anywhere from 30 days to a year). If Movers and Shakas approve the application, they will pay for the return flight, grant discounts for stays in hotels or for short-term rentals, and help the remote worker find a reliable job. The deadline for the first batch of 50 Movers and Shakas is December 15th.

A delicate balance is taking place here. The founders of this program are essentially looking for ways to get highly paid, suddenly unemployed employees from New York or Los Angeles to get to know Oahu – and spend some money doing it. According to Movers and Shakas, only one participant in their program can provide 50 times the purchasing power of a single tourist. Prior to the pandemic, the New York Times published an article on rampant overtourism in the islands, how it left behind the needs of locals in consideration of inbound and outbound visitors. But this type of boilerplate, where the tourists stand as locals in the moonlight, could be a more sustainable solution.

The key, however, is to ensure that Movers and Shakas participants understand where they are. All applicants must keep the promise to our Keiki, recognizing the responsibility that comes with living in Hawaii: respecting the heritage of indigenous communities, sharing prosperity with the community, protecting the environment, living with aloha in your heart . To this end, Movers and Shakas plan to associate each member of their first “class” with a charitable area for at least 15 hours per month.

All in all, it’s a good, proactive idea that allows Hawaiian officials to learn early on how distant workers could affect the economy, before the wave kicks in in the next decade anyway. (Even after the pandemic, remote working is firmly entrenched.) There are, of course, some concerns about this program. They are everywhere. Some native Hawaiians have raised concerns that the founding body has no indigenous members. Others fear that new tenants could drive prices up. In the meantime, it is unclear how viable the program would be for workers on the east coast. Hawaii is (currently) five hours behind. So if your day starts at 9 a.m. in New York, you have to get up at 4 a.m. in Honolulu.

Not to mention, there’s still a pandemic going on. Free flight or not, moving to Hawaii may not be high on the list. However, right now Hawaii has the lowest cases per capita of any state in the country. More information can be found here.

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