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Maryland Gov. Hogan offers $100 to state employees who get COVID vaccine

Maryland’s state government employees are getting an extra inducement to get vaccinated against the coronavirus: $100 payments.

“With this incentive program, we are further encouraging state employees to get vaccinated to help keep themselves, their families, and their communities healthy and safe,” Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday in a statement announcing the incentive plan.

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The estimated cost for the program is $5 million, according to Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci.

To receive the payments, state government employees must show proof of vaccination to their human resources office and sign an agreement to get any required booster shots over the next 18 months. Workers who already have been vaccinated are eligible, along with those yet to receive the shots. The program will cover part-time state workers and contractual state employees.

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Workers in the University System of Maryland and at Morgan State University will not be eligible for the payments, as they’re already required to get the vaccine by the start of the fall semester.

The Hogan administration is exploring whether they’ll be able to use federal coronavirus relief funds to cover the cost of the incentive payments, Ricci said.

The Hogan administration said it is working with state employee unions to implement the program. Officials with the largest union representing state employees, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3, said the detail still are being negotiated.

“AFSCME wants to ensure that all health and safety measures are taken. We have begun to bargain about this and other topics to ensure our members and the public are made safe,” said Stuart Katzenberg, director of bargaining for the union. “Too many state employees and citizens who use state services have been unnecessarily infected by the insufficient efforts of the Hogan administration.”

He added: “We look forward to continuing to bargain and getting a written agreement with the administration about vaccinations and health and safety.”

Through Monday morning, about 2.1 million Maryland residents have been fully vaccinated, out of a population of about 6.1 million. It’s unclear what the vaccination rate is among state government workers.

With more contagious strains of the virus taking hold in the United States, public health officials have raised concerns about those who refuse to get vaccinated. In response, they’ve turned to a variety of incentives to nudge people to get shots.

In neighboring West Virginia, for example, where the median age of newly infected patients has dropped to 34 years old, Gov. Jim Justice recently announced a program to give $100 savings bonds to residents aged 16-35 who get vaccinated. West Virginia is using money from the federal CARES Act to pay for the savings bonds.

In Detroit, residents who sign up for a program called Good Neighbors can receive $50 prepaid debit cards each time they take people to certain vaccine appointments.

And in New Jersey, those who are vaccinated can get a free beer at one of a dozen breweries participating in the state’s “shot and a beer” promotion.

Some private employers are offering incentives, too, including extra time off or payments to cover the cost of rides to vaccine appointments.

Live! Casino & Hotel at Arundel Mills in Hanover is offering $100 payments to workers who already are fully vaccinated or get vaccinated by June 25.

Under the federal American Rescue Plan, companies with fewer than 500 employees can get a tax credit for providing paid sick leave to workers so they can get the shots.

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