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Biden calls for $100 COVID vaccine incentive payments, mandatory vaccines for all troops

President Joe Biden on June 2, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
July 29, 2021

On Thursday, President Joe Biden publicly called on state and local governments to give $100 incentive payments to every person who takes the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to increase vaccination rates. He also mandated masks for all federal workers who aren’t vaccinated, and directed the Department of Defense to mandate the vaccine for all military personnel.

“I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who’ve gotten vaccinated already. But here’s the deal: If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” Biden said.

Biden said states can use funding from the American Rescue Plan to make the payments to newly vaccinated residents.

Biden pointed to grocery giant Kroger, who offered their employees an $100 incentive to get the vaccine and saw employees’ vaccination rate increase from 50% to 75%. He added that New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado, have implemented incentive programs that also increased vaccination rates.

The White House said 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which includes 80 percent of seniors and 60 percent of adults.

Biden also directed the DOD to explore adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines for military personnel, and coming up with a timeframe for that to happen.

Additionally, Biden said that all 4 million federal government employees and contractors must “attest” whether they have been vaccinated, and anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated must wear a mask, social distance, and submit to once or twice weekly COVID tests, as well as restricted official travel.

The U.S. military already mandates a number of vaccines for American troops, including shots against the flu, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus-diphtheria, according to the U.S. Army basic website.

In April, Biden had said he hadn’t ruled out requiring vaccines for service members, but said the decision was a “tough call” that he would “leave that to the military.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters this month that mandating the vaccine was under consideration at the department.

“If these vaccines are approved by the FDA, then the secretary will certainly talk to the services and health care professionals here at the department to determine what the best options are going forward, which could include making them mandatory,” Kirby said on July 8.

Earlier this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to mandate vaccines for its 115,000 medical personnel.

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said. “Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19. With this mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”