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By Julia Glum
July 29, 2021
People waiting at a Covid-19 vaccination site
Getty Images

President Joe Biden wants badly to increase vaccination rates in the United States — so badly he's willing to pay for it.

Biden is now "calling on state, territorial and local governments to provide $100 payments for every newly vaccinated American," according to a Thursday news release from the Department of Treasury. Intended as an incentive to make progress in the nation's fight against the coronavirus, the announcement came amid mounting concerns over the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

"For these governments and the communities they represent, no task is more urgent than turning the tide on the pandemic, and there is no better tool than vaccination," added the Treasury Department.

That's a lot of legal jargon for a simple concept: Get vaxxed, get $100.

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In a statement of its own, the White House said there's proof "financial incentives serve as a motivating factor for some people to get vaccinated." It cited evidence from a spring University of California, Los Angeles survey in which 34% of unvaccinated people said they'd be more likely to get the shot if they were offered $100.

In a brief speech delivered Thursday afternoon, Biden acknowledged that the $100 payments — available only to the newly vaccinated — may not seem entirely fair.

"I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who got vaccinated already, but here's the deal: If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them," he said.

Biden's proposal sources funds from the American Rescue Plan, which gave government leaders at various levels $350 billion to respond to the pandemic via the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program. The Treasury Department clarified in May that the money could be used for incentives "reasonably expected to increase the number of people who choose to get vaccinated, or that motivate people to get vaccinated sooner than they otherwise would have," according to the release.

Trading money for shots isn't a new idea. Ohio held a weekly $1 million lottery for vaccinated residents earlier this year. Colorado is giving out scholarships and $100 Walmart gift cards. Starting this Friday, people who get inoculated at New York City-run vaccine locations can choose to receive a $100 prepaid debit card.

The message is "here’s $100 to thank you for doing the right thing," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 164 million people are currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That's only 49.4% of the population. Nearly 70% of the American population ages 18 and over have received at least one dose, but in some states, vaccination rates are lagging. In Mississippi, for example, only 34% of the population (and 42% of those 18 and up) are fully vaccinated.

As a reminder, the coronavirus vaccine is free. To find it — and maybe even get paid to get the vaccine — you can visit vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233.

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