Virginia adds telecommuting incentive

Businesses in northern Virginia's overcrowded metropolitan area may be eligible

for financial incentives from the commonwealth if they make telecommuting

an option for their employees, Governor Jim Gilmore announced yesterday.

Through the Telework!VA program, Virginia will reimburse companies up

to $35,000, or $3,500 per employee, for the cost of telecommuting-related

equipment and services, including computer and server equipment, answering

machines, fax machines, modems and even Web-cams.

In addition to reducing the number of vehicles on crowded northern Virginia

highways, the program could save corporations from having to buy more real

estate or spend more money on parking. Telecommuting also could get more

productivity from people who would no longer be faced with the stress of

a daily commute, Gilmore said.

In developing the program, the commonwealth looked at similar incentive-based

programs in Oregon, Maryland, Arizona and California, but Telework!VA "is

one of the most progressive telework programs in the country," he said.

"We're changing the way we do business in transportation through innovation

and technology. This has the potential to significantly increase the quality

of life in the region."

Telework!VA (www.teleworkva.org) is a $3 million public/private partnership

to be administered by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

(www.drpt.state.va.us) through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

(www.mwcog.org).

To participate, businesses must have a minimum of 20 employees working

in northern Virginia, and participating telework employees must be Virginia

residents.

Virginia is sending out letters to 4,000 local businesses to invite

them to go online and apply, the governor said.

"Money isn't the only answer here," Gilmore said, adding that telecommuting

nationwide is said to save businesses $441 billion annually. "It seems the

more money you put in, the more roads and traffic you have. What we need

is an innovative, aggressive approach, which is what you have here."

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