COVID shot could be your ticket to big cash in one South Florida city

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sep 27, 2021 4:15 PM

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BOYNTON BEACH — Did you get a shot in the arm? Then you might have a chance to get $100,000 in your hand if you live in Boynton Beach.

The city is considering a big-money raffle for residents who can prove they got the COVID-19 vaccine, the latest incentive to persuade reluctant segments of the population to get vaccinated.

Public health experts say the vaccine is the key to ending the pandemic, but the number of doses given out last week in Florida declined to 273,756, compared with 335,327 the week before.

Incentives elsewhere have ranged from gift cards to million-dollar prizes.

Ohio’s Vax-a-Million vaccination program gave away five $1 million prizes and free college tuition. Nearly 3.5 million Ohioans entered the drawing.

Maryland awarded millions of dollars in cash lotteries and college scholarships. In Washington, D.C., the mayor offered AirPods. Massachusetts offered the VaxMillions Giveaway of money and college scholarships.

Reviews have been mixed. In Ohio, vaccinations soared 55% for residents ages 20 to 49 after the cash incentive, and the number of teens vying for the college scholarship jumped 94%. But other reports showed a spike in vaccination rates were happening countrywide at that time, even among states with no lottery, potentially because of widening eligibility of the vaccine.

Still, Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant, the father of an 18-month-old girl who is too young for the vaccine and dependent on community protection, said Monday the city ought to do its part to encourage vaccines.

The city commission could vote on the mayor’s proposal as early as next week.

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Grant said the city previously gave away $100 incentives to anyone — resident or not — who got vaccinated in Boynton Beach. The city had $50,000 to spend and still has $35,000 to give away.

He came up with the $100,000 idea, financed with federal money, to pick up the pace of the vaccines for residents only. He called his proposal “more proactive than reactive.”

Broward County briefly considered vaccine raffles with prizes including tickets to sporting events and even car giveaways — “very impressive drawings” — but was warned by its legal department it could run afoul of state gambling laws, said Mayor Steve Geller.

Instead, Broward is focusing on incentives for its 5,500 eligible full-time employees, who will get a $500 reward for getting vaccinated. Those who don’t will get a $20 surcharge in each paycheck. The incentive begins on Friday. The surcharge goes into effect Nov. 29 to give people time to get jabbed.

Grant said that because the Boynton Beach lottery would not require a purchase, he did not expect a problem with gambling laws. His city will also reward City Hall employees with $500 bonuses for getting vaccinated.

Other cities and counties have taken these actions:

  • Deerfield Beach offers employees $100 for proof of vaccination.
  • North Lauderdale previously gave employees a $25 Publix gift card for proof of vaccine.
  • Palm Beach County gives a one-time $25 gift card incentive.
  • Pompano Beach has a $100 gift card incentive for any employee vaccinated after July 29. The city also offers $200 gift cards to residents who have proof of a vaccine. The program was set to end Thursday, but will be continued until late October. “People are in line outside City Hall daily to get the cards,” said city spokeswoman Sandra King.
  • West Palm Beach offers $500 gift cards to vaccinated employees through December, but there is talk about extending the offer.

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