Incentive programs designed to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are spreading across the country. Broward County’s version is to give vaccinated county employees a $500 bonus.
“I thought it was a pretty good idea," said Pat Quinn, who works in the environmental protection unit. "I’m vaccinated, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me to go ahead and do that and if they’re willing to pay me for it, yeah, I’ll take it."
The county is using more than $3 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus money to give every vaccinated employee $500, but every unvaccinated worker will pay an extra $20 every two weeks for health insurance.
“It ends up being that over the course of the year, it’s a thousand dollar swing," said mayor Steve Geller. "You either get the $500 bonus or you pay a $520 surcharge. By the way, that’s no different than what we have for tobacco."
“If it helps anybody get vaccinated, it’s, I think it’s well worth it. My son got COVID, he spent six days in the hospital, 27 years old, so people thinking that it’s really not that big a deal, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal,” Quinn said, explaining that his son got sick before he was eligible for vaccination.
NBC 6 spoke to about a dozen county employees, all of whom supported the proposal, but only Quinn spoke on the record.
The non-vaxxed also have to get tested every week. The county hopes the new policy will inspire a lot more workers to roll up their sleeves. So is it a good use of the federal funds? State representative Chip LaMarca, (R) Lighthouse Point, isn’t so sure.
“I’m vaccinated, I think it’s the proper thing to do," LaMarca said. "That being said, from a standpoint of incentives it’s fine, I think it’s a lot of money to spend to get people to do what they should do already and common sense says so."
The former Broward County Commissioner also said he has concerns about the punitive aspect of the program. Geller insists that it fits within the state law outlawing vaccine mandates, and calls it a carrot and twig approach, saying the punishment for not being vaccinated is too small to be considered a stick.
Quinn, meanwhile, is urging all of his colleagues who work for the county to get vaccinated and ignore the misinformation about the vaccines.
“There’s a lot of information going out there about the vaccine, but I would tell people to trust in science, trust in the scientists that are doing this, don’t trust in people that don’t have any training in it,” Quinn said.