WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden called on local governments Thursday to draw from COVID-19 relief funds to give $100 to newly vaccinated people, hoping to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country.
Local governments can pull from their State and Local Recovery Funds issued through the American Rescue Plan, Biden said in remarks on Thursday. The American Rescue Plan has allocated $350 billion to help local governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cash reward for vaccination was one idea in Biden’s latest plan to boost lagging vaccination rates in many parts of the nation. Rolled out Thursday, the core of his new plan is a requirement for federal workers to disclose their vaccination status to their agencies.
Biden is pointing to anecdotal evidence that a $100 reward will get results. The White House says the Kroger grocery store chain tried it and saw vaccination rates jump to 75% from 50% among employees. New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado have also experimented with the idea.
"Right now too many people are dying or watching someone else they love dying," Biden said on Thursday. "It’s heartbreaking. And it’s complicated even more because it’s preventable."
"If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them," Biden added.
FILE - Family walks past vaccination site located at Pico Union Project where Curative is offering Covid testing and a choice of Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The move by the federal government — the nation’s largest employer — comes in a week when major corporations and some local governments are implementing new requirements. But most have not, despite surging coronavirus rates in the U.S.
A number of major corporations and some local governments are implementing requirements of their own. Google and Facebook were among private employers who announced vaccine mandates Wednesday for their workers to return to offices.
Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring workers to disclose their vaccination status though not requiring them to be vaccinated.
But fewer than 10% of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.
About 60% of American adults have been fully vaccinated. Biden had set a July 4 goal to get at least one shot into the arms of 70% of adults, but is still not quite there. The latest figure is 69.3%.
The Biden administration hopes its federal worker guidance will help change that by providing a model for state and local governments and private businesses to follow as workers prepare to return to offices this fall.
The Justice Department and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have both said no federal laws prevent businesses from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment and the federal policy would take precedent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.