Demand to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is tapering off around the country. In response, local officials and business owners have offered incentives, such as a free drink or sandwich at a restaurant, to entice Americans to get the jab. Governor Gavin Newsom of California took the free beer idea to a whole new level on May 27, announcing a $116.5 million program. It is undoubtedly the “most significant” program in the United States, as Newsom claims.
Here’s How It Works
Starting from now, the next two million California residents to get their first or second doses will receive $50 pre-paid MasterCard or a Kroger or Albertsons grocery store gift card. At the beginning of June, the state will hold lottery drawings to select 30 vaccinated individuals. The winners will be awarded $50,000. Everyone vaccinated with at least one dose of any variety by the June cut-off will be entered into the drawing. On June 15, the big prize winners will be announced. Ten vaccinated residents will each receive $1.5 million.
The frequently criticized governor claims the program’s purpose is to push some of the folks on the fence towards getting the vaccine. Last week the Golden State administered 1.9 million doses, down from the 3 million a-week high, racking the total doses given to 37 million. More than 50% percent of California’s population has been vaccinated, the highest number of Americans than any other state.
So, as the leader in many of the right categories, why does the state need to shell out over $116 million towards incentives? Newsom said they based their decision on “research” conducted by UCLA. It showed that 31% of those surveyed would be more likely to get vaccinated if there was an incentive involved. The survey did not include questions regarding whether the incentive needed to be a huge cash payout. This small survey was apparently enough to shell out over a hundred million dollars.
Beset By Problems
Governor Newsom has been under heavy scrutiny throughout the pandemic and now faces recall. The state’s extremely poor initial vaccine rollout prompted House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Young Kim to lead California members of Congress in demanding answers from Newsom back in February. Technical issues, setbacks, data lags, and a lack of transparency on the issues at the beginning of distribution heightened recall efforts as a number of Californians became frustrated with their government.
Critics have suggested that this incentive program is an attempt to buy back voters. A fall recall election is expected, and this incentive program is not the first time the governor has waved money in Californians’ faces. An apparent surplus from coronavirus aid and excess state revenues has caused Newsom to propose rebates for the middle-class and $600 checks to all residents making under $75,000. Suspicions of the governor’s intentions will likely dominate the governor’s political future as voters are asked once again to put their faith in the incumbent.
Read more from Keelin Ferris.