MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota will join in the Biden administration's plan to provide $100 incentives to residents who get COVID-19 vaccinations by mid-August, Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday.
President Joe Biden announced the rewards as part of sweeping new pandemic requirements for millions of federal workers as he denounced an “American tragedy” of rising-yet-preventable deaths among unvaccinated people.
Starting Friday, unvaccinated Minnesotans 12 and older who get their first shot by Aug. 15 will get a $100 Visa gift card to spend however they choose. Beginning Wednesday, Minnesotans can verify their first dose and claim their $100 at: mn.gov/covid19. All Minnesotans qualify for free COVID-19 shots through health care providers, pharmacies and other sources.
“We have made so much progress to combat this virus," Walz said in a statement. "We cannot give up ground now, especially with students returning to the classroom this fall. Getting paid $100 to keep your family safe is a pretty good deal — all you have to do is roll up your sleeves.”
Walz said he will authorize up to $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to launch the program and will seek legislative approval for more money to sustain it. He said he'll also work with lawmakers and nonprofits to set up a subsequent grant program to provide incentives aimed at Minnesotans in vulnerable and underserved communities.
Minnesota, like other states, has struggled to raise its vaccination rates. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 68.6% of Minnesotans have received at least their first dose, but doses administered in recent weeks have flattened out. Vaccination rates have been highest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Rochester areas, but have lagged in rural counties.
The governor and state health officials have been making extra pleas in recent days for people to get vaccinated, giving the impending start of the school year and the Minnesota State Fair, which opens Aug. 26. The state fair will be back after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, and typically draws over 2 million visitors,