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Lancaster County to pay employees who get vaccinated
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Lancaster County to pay employees who get vaccinated

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Lancaster County employees will get $200 for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and an extra $50 for getting the booster when it's available -- an effort by county officials to increase vaccination rates.

Lancaster County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the incentive policy, which will be paid for with a portion of the $106 million the city and county received from federal coronavirus relief measures.

“It’s not as high as we’d like it to be,” Board Chairman Rick Vest said of the vaccination rate among county employees.

Overall, 71.6% of Lancaster County residents age 16 and over are fully vaccinated, the highest rate in Nebraska.

Vest said Lancaster County officials don’t have formal numbers of vaccinated employees because they don’t ask, but several department heads told board members there were surprisingly low numbers of people vaccinated in their departments, information they would have come by anecdotally.

Employees who want the incentive, however, will have to prove that they've been vaccinated.

Board members considered mandating the vaccine, but discarded that idea fairly quickly in favor of an incentive program.

“In my opinion the board felt a mandate wouldn’t be effective, that an incentive would be more powerful,” Vest said.

County Board member Sean Flowerday said they’re trying to reward good behavior, and it will be retroactive, so employees who already have gotten the vaccine will be rewarded.

The program applies to full- and part-time employees.

The county employs about 900 full-time workers, plus some additional part-time seasonal workers, said Doug McDaniel, director of human resources for the city and county.

That means if the county got 100% participation, it would cost nearly $267,000.

The policy calls for paying employees $237.11 for the vaccine and $59.23 for the booster to account for the taxes that will be taken out. The money will come from the $3.5 million in county relief earmarked for public health initiatives. The city earmarked $7 million to public health initiatives.

Offering $100 incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated was one of the ways the Biden administration recommended local and state officials use the relief money.

The National Governors Association website lists various incentives offered in different states -- everything from a $500 incentive to Colorado State Corrections employees who get vaccinated to four hours paid leave for state workers in Idaho.

Many states offer a range of incentives and contests for residents who get vaccinated: everything from free park and hunting licenses to gift cards, entry into various drawings and sweepstakes and, in Louisiana, a free shot (or a nonalcoholic drink) from participating businesses.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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