Biden calls on states to offer $100 vaccine incentives

President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE on Thursday called on state and local governments to use funds from his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to offer $100 payments to individuals in order to incentivize coronavirus vaccinations.

The payments would be offered to newly vaccinated Americans to provide “an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives,” the Treasury Department said in an announcement Thursday afternoon.

“Treasury stands ready to give technical assistance to state and local governments so that they may use the funds effectively to support increased vaccination in their communities, and Treasury will partner with the Department of Health and Human Services throughout this effort,” it said.

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Biden formally announced the new incentive plan during an address on the coronavirus at the White House.

“I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks that have gotten vaccinated already but here’s the deal: if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” Biden said. “We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated.”

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law, which Biden signed in March, included $350 billion in funding to assist state, territorial and local governments in battling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Treasury Department clarified in May that governments that receive funds could use them for vaccine incentive programs. Several states and private businesses have already offered vaccine incentives in the form of lotteries and free food and other goods.

The announcement represents the latest strategy by the Biden administration to incentivize vaccines amid the spread of the more contagious delta variant.

Almost 70 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but vaccination rates have leveled off in recent weeks, and the percentage of people who are vaccinated in some areas of the country remains low.

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Biden delivered remarks Thursday afternoon on his vaccination strategy and the status of the country’s fight against the virus. He announced that the federal government will require employees and onsite contractors to show they are vaccinated or submit to COVID-19 testing once or twice a week, in addition to masking and physically distancing. 

“With incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that even vaccinated Americans wear face masks indoors in areas of high transmission of COVID-19, citing new evidence that vaccinated people can spread the delta variant.

—Updated at 5 p.m.