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Anderson council president proposes $150 vaccine incentive

The money would come from the federal allowance for COVID-19 mitigation and even be paid to vaccinated children.

ANDERSON, Ind. — Indiana right now has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and one of the highest hospitalization rates.

Some communities are especially struggling with sickness, even lagging behind stage averages.

It's why a city leader in Anderson is thinking outside the box, hoping money will make a difference and get people to protect themselves.

To curb the omicron tide and convince hesitant Hoosiers to get the shot, Anderson's City Council President Ty Bibbs, wants to appeal to people's pocketbooks.

He's proposing a cash incentive to boost vaccination rates.

"I want to be able to say that I did what I could in my capacity as a public official to save as many lives as I could," Bibbs said.

That hasn't been easy in Madison County, where despite COVID cases and hospitalizations surging, the vaccination rate is 52%, lower than the state average.

Parts of Anderson are even worse.

Zip code 46016 for example, sits at just 37% fully-vaccinated according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Bibbs has seen the result of those numbers, firsthand.

"People that I know have had complete and utter tragedies that they've experienced in the last few weeks," Bibbs said.

So Councilman Bibbs is proposing the city of Anderson pay people $150 to get the shot: $100 per resident for full-vaccination after they receive their two shots, and then another $50 for their booster. 

Vaccination cards would serve as proof to get paid.

"I was thinking possibly a credit on the household utility bill, a pre-paid debit card or a gift card," Bibbs explained.

The $8.4 million in total incentives would be funded through federal money the city received from the American Rescue Plan.

Bibbs said money from the federal infrastructure bill would make up the amount in the ARP already earmarked for water improvements in the city.

This isn't the first time cash and prizes have been used to encourage vaccination.

Purdue had a "golden ticket" lottery offering a free year of tuition. Marion County gave away Colts tickets and Indianapolis Zoo memberships. Kroger gave away $1 million and free groceries, and CVS awarded Super Bowl tickets and weekend getaways.

The $150 incentive proposal in Anderson still has to go through public meetings and council approval, but Bibbs believes it'll work.

With omicron out there, he said something has to be done.

"From what I understand, the next few months are going to be the worst months that we've experienced since this all began," Bibbs said. "So as a public official, at least I can say I did what I could do to help stem the curve."

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