Newsom unveils $116.5M COVID vaccine incentive plan ahead of state's June 15 reopening

Like several other states, California has now introduced a COVID vaccine lottery
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday unveiled a $116.5-million plan to incentivize more Californians to get the COVID-19 vaccine and reward those who are already vaccinated.

Touted as "the biggest in the nation," the program was outlined by the governor at an afternoon news conference, just over two weeks before the state's planned lifting of COVID restrictions on June 15.

California's COVID vaccine lottery includes:



  • A $15 million cash grand prize, to be split between 10 vaccinated Californians

  • "$50,000 Fridays" cash prizes for 30 vaccinated Californians

  • $100 million in $50 gift cards for the next 2 million new fully vaccinated Californians


  • The cards are available to state residents who are 12 years old or older, and can be spent at any Albertsons or Kroger-operated grocery store. A $50 Mastercard option, which can be spent anywhere, is also available.

    "If you're a family of six, do the math," Newsom said. "That opportunity avails itself to everybody until we exhaust those 2 million cards."

    Referring to people who are already vaccinated, he asked rhetorically: "What about everybody else that did the right thing? What about you? Two weeks ago, two months ago, took the time away from work, waited in a long line, maybe drove 50 miles into another county and got vaccinated, and gave us the momentum that put us in the position that we are today."

    California to remove all capacity limits, physical distancing requirements starting June 15
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    California announced the details of its full June 15 reopening plan Friday. The state is removing all capacity limits and physical distancing requirements, regardless of the business or setting.


    The governor reiterated that California has the lowest COVID-19 case rate among all states in the U.S.

    He went on to explain how so-called "$50,000 Fridays" will be conducted on June 4 and June 11, when drawings for cash prizes will be held. "Everybody who has been vaccinated in the state of California will be put into this drawing" -- without having to register -- he said. Winners' names will remain anonymous unless they choose to publicize their windfall, he said.

    The $15 million cash grand prize is scheduled to be distributed on June 15, divided among 10 state residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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    Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $116.5-million plan to incentivize more Californians to get the COVID-19 vaccine and reward those who are already vaccinated.



    A statement from Newsom's office described the initiative as a an effort to "reinforce the value of vaccination for all Californians, especially those in communities hit hardest by the pandemic."

    Details are available at covid19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win.

    The news release noted that all state residents who have received the vaccine are already entered for cash prizes. Those who have not are urged to "get vaccinated ASAP" to be eligible for a $50 gift card and the chance to win the cash prizes.

    Newsom had initially planned to make the announcement Wednesday, but it was delayed because of the deadly mass shooting in San Jose.

    Several states like New York, Maryland and Ohio have announced lotteries and other cash incentives to encourage people to get inoculated, but Newsom has said California is looking at more targeted initiatives.

    "We'll do (incentives) in a strategic way. We're not going to do that broadly unless we feel it's necessary. But right now we're looking at targeted strategies and incentives," the governor said on May 20.

    Even without cash bonuses, Californians have been relatively quick to get vaccinated.

    As of Wednesday, more than 22 million people had received at least one dose. As of earlier this week, at least 50% of people 16 and older in Los Angeles County were fully vaccinated.

    There's concern the demand for the vaccine will wane, even as the state moves closer to a full reopening on June 15. Nationally, vaccination numbers have been dropping for six weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    There's already one (very big) incentive to get vaccinated, Newsom pointed out: "I think the ultimate incentive is saving a life and the lives of loved ones."
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