Biden makes plea for vaccine

Urges incentive of $100 to get shots

- Joey Garrison and Michael Collins

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is asking states and cities to use federal rescue funds to provide $100 payments as an incentive for individual­s to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Biden announced the incentive payments Thursday along with other measures, including requiring federal employees to show they have been vaccinated or undergo regular testing, to boost vaccinatio­n rates amid a rise in COVID-19 cases triggered by the highly infectious delta variant.

“You want to know how we put this virus behind this?” he asked from the White House East Room. “I will tell you how: We need to get more people vaccinated.”

Before Biden’s remarks, the Treasury Department released rules allowing state and local government­s to use their share of $350 billion in direct aid from Biden’s American Rescue Plan to pay for the $100 incentive payments.

Biden said the move would prevent deaths. “I know that paying people who get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who got vaccinated already,” he said. “But here’s the deal: If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them. We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated.”

Biden announced that federal employees and contract workers will be required to show they are fully vaccinated or to undergo coronaviru­s tests once or twice a week, wear face masks on the job and socially distance from other employees and visitors.

Biden directed the Defense Department to review adding COVID-19 shots to the list of required vaccinatio­ns for members of the military. The administra­tion said that is particular­ly important because troops serve in places throughout the world where vaccinatio­n rates are low and disease is prevalent.

Small- and medium-sized businesses will be reimbursed for giving their employees paid leave so their children and other family members can get vaccine shots. Biden called on school districts to host at least one vaccinatio­n clinic in the coming weeks and directed pharmacies to work with schools to set up such clinics.

Directly addressing the issue of COVID-19 misinforma­tion and vaccine hesitancy, Biden stressed that the vaccines have been thoroughly tested and are safe and effective.

“If, in fact, you’re unvaccinat­ed, you present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom we work,” he said.

Acknowledg­ing that in some areas vaccines and face masks have been political issues, Biden applauded Republican­s such as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who have urged unvaccinat­ed Americans to get the shots.

“This is not about red states and blue states,” he said. “It’s literally about life and death.”

Several states have offered financial prizes to encourage citizens to get vaccinated, and on Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off a $100 incentive similar to Biden’s plan.

The White House pointed to $100 vaccinatio­n incentives offered by the Kroger grocery store chain as proof the carrot approach works. Kroger saw its vaccinatio­n rates jump from 50% to 75% after it offered its payments, according to the White House.

The White House said $100 incentive programs in New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado encouraged more people to get vaccinated.

In May, the Treasury Department sent cities and states their first infusion of direct aid from the American Rescue Plan – approved by Congress in March – intended to replenish revenue shortfalls during the pandemic. Several states and cities have been slow to appropriat­e their funds.

Eligible uses include coronaviru­s mitigation and medical expenses, boosting small businesses, paying public workers, replacing lost tax revenue and water infrastruc­ture.

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