Young West Virginians Offered $100 Incentive to Get COVID-19 Vaccine - Should Other States Follow Suit?
Should states use unspent COVID relief funding to offer young Americans money for getting vaccinated?
by Causes | 5.3.21
What’s the story?
- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) recently announced a plan to offer a $100 financial incentive for residents between the ages of 16 and 35 to get the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
- The Mountain State was one of the fastest states in the U.S. in terms of its initial vaccine rollout, but younger residents who have only recently become eligible have been slow to get vaccinated, prompting the governor to move forward with the financial incentive.
- Justice said the incentive will be retroactive, so West Virginians in that demographic who were previously vaccinated will also get the payment:
“If you have been vaccinated and you are 16 to 35 years in age, you will receive the bonds. You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘I could get vaccinated today, but they aren’t up and running on these savings bonds.’ Just go get vaccinated. We will make it retroactive so that anyone in this age range that has received their shots will absolutely get their bond.”
- Justice initially announced that eligible recipients will receive $100 savings bonds through the U.S. Treasury, which are purchased for half the face value and mature to face value after 20 years. The governor said that while young West Virginians may be unfamiliar with savings bonds, their parents and grandparents understand the significance and, “It will give our kids something that, in my opinion, we need to infuse in all of us, and that’s an extra dose of patriotism.”
- While the state is investigating the possibility of savings bonds, Justice indicated that because the Treasury only issues electronic savings bonds so the logistics are “difficult” and, “At the rainbow, we may have to say, nope, we just can’t do that. We’re just going to send you a $100 check,” perhaps with a keepsake card and silver dollar.
- There are roughly 380,000 West Virginians in the target 16 to 35 age group and Justice’s goal is to incentivize about 275,000 people in the demographic (which is a little more than 70%) to get vaccinated. Justice said of West Virginians in the target demographic:
“Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down. I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them ― and us ― to get over the hump… If we can get to 70%, we’ll shut this virus down. If we do that, the masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, and the deaths become minimal.”
- At that participation level, the initiative would cost about $27.5 million (although buying savings bonds would cost closer to $13 million). Funding will come from unspent COVID-19 relief funding the state received through previous federal relief packages. As of April 20, 2021, the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office found that over $615 million of the $1.27 billion the state received from the enactment of the CARES Act in March 2020 is unspent.
- Justice said the state has “vetted this in every way that we possibly can to be assured that we can use our CARES dollars to do exactly just this.” He also noted that the state has been spending about $10 million per month on testing for residents, so if his plan succeeds in getting enough West Virginians vaccinated to reach herd immunity it will save money over time.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Jitalia17)
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