Va. 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 May 30.

Through the telework!VA program (www.teleworkva.org), 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 Webcams.

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, commonwealth officials 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," the governor 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 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 believed 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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