On Thursday, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new incentive program to motivate residents of the Golden State to get vaccinated against COVID-19, offering cash prizes totaling $116.5 million.
Newsom described the effort on social media as “a $116.5 MILLION GIVEAWAY for vaccinated Californians!”
During a press conference at Esteban Torres High School Engineering & Technology Academy in Los Angeles on Thursday, the governor said about two-thirds of residents aged 12 and older have been vaccinated but acknowledged that demand has dropped in recent weeks. He said the monetary incentive program is necessary as the state prepares to fully reopen on June 15, less than three weeks away.
“We are mindful that if we continue down this path and this trend, we’re not going to get where all of us need to be, and that is north of 70% of all eligible Californians getting administered doses of this lifesaving vaccine,” said Newsom.
President Joe Biden set a goal for 70% of the eligible U.S. population to get inoculated by July 4.
Officially called “Vax for the Win,” the plan is open to most residents aged 12 and older, regardless of their immigration status. There are limited exceptions. Incarcerated people and some government employees are not eligible to participate. State officials say residents who have already gotten at least one shot before the program was announced are automatically registered to win cash prizes.
CA is launching a $116.5 MILLION GIVEAWAY for vaccinated Californians!
$15 MILLION in cash prizes for 10 winners selected 6/15
$50k for winners on 6/4 & 6/11
Already vaccinated? You’re entered.
Not vaccinated? Next 2 million that get fully vaccinated can ALSO get a $50 card.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 27, 2021
There are three ways to win:
- Ten residents will be selected on June 15 to win “a grand prize” of $1.5 million apiece. All Californians who have had at least one shot will automatically be eligible, but the prize money will be paid after winners complete their vaccination series.
- Persons with at least one COVID-19 dose will be automatically entered to win “$50,000 Fridays” prizes. Thirty winners will take home $50,000 each, with 15 winners announced on Friday, June 4, and another 15 on Friday, June 11. The prize money will be paid after the winners complete their vaccination series.
- The first two million Californians to start and complete their vaccination on or after May 27 will receive a $50 prepaid gift or grocery card. They will also be entered to win the more lucrative cash drawings.
“If you’re a family of six, do the math,” said Newsom. “That opportunity avails itself to everybody until we exhaust those two million cards.”
If a minor wins a cash prize, the funds will be held in a savings account until the individual turns 18.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The money will initially come out of the state’s general fund but will later be backfilled by federal funding from the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that Congress passed this year.”
Newsom’s office said the program targets low-income people and communities of color.
Getting more Californians vaccinated is how we come roaring back from the pandemic. We're pulling out all the stops to motivate everyone to get vaccinated by June 15.
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) May 27, 2021
Data compiled by the L.A. Times indicates 53.6% of all Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with more than 36.2 million doses administered. According to The Times, “Experts say about 85% of Americans will need to be vaccinated to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control.”
“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” Newsom said. “California has already made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, with the lowest case rates in the country while administering millions more vaccines than any other state. But we aren’t stopping there. We’re doing everything it takes to get Californians vaccinated as we approach June 15 to help us fully reopen safely.”
Newsom said state officials have more ideas to convince Californians to get vaccinated after June 15, but he did not provide details.
The governor had planned on unveiling the vaccination incentive program on Wednesday, but the announcement was delayed because of a deadly mass shooting in San Jose.
The California secretary of state’s office announced last month that organizers of a campaign to recall Gov. Newsom had turned in enough valid signatures to force a special election, but an election date has not been set. Election officials still need to record how many voters who signed the petition have since withdrawn their support. The Secretary of State will then determine if the petition still has the requisite number of valid signatures to proceed.