Commission recommends cash incentive to increase vaccinations among workers in Fayetteville

A&P Commissioner Todd Martin speaks during the groups regular monthly meeting on July 26. / Fayetteville Government Channel

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission would like the city to offer a cash incentive to encourage local workers to get vaccinated.

Commissioners last week voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking the city to at least consider the idea of launching and administering a program that would provide a matching dollar amount to employers who give money to their employees for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The discussion was started by commissioner Matthew Petty, who also serves on the City Council. Petty told the commission he’s unsure about any details, but wanted to see if there was interest in the idea since the group includes business owners in the hospitality industry.

“The purpose of this discussion is really to see if we think a program like this would be effective and worthwhile,” said Petty. “And if so, to make it a formal suggestion to the city that they roll something like this out.”

Petty said the city could use federal pandemic relief money for payments.

The White House on Friday encouraged state and local governments to offer $100 to people who get fully vaccinated by using money from the American Rescue Plan. City officials have said Fayetteville is expected to receive about $17.9 million through the plan.

“The funding is there and it’s flexible,” Petty said.

Commissioner Todd Martin, who owns East Side Grill, Theo’s and Southern Food Company in Fayetteville, said he currently offers a $50 cash payment to his employees who get vaccinated. He said the program has been somewhat successful, but doubling the money could be more convincing.

“I think there is a level of financial incentive out there that is going to encourage people to (get the vaccine), but I haven’t hit it yet,” said Martin. “If the city were to offer a $50 match, I have to think that would encourage people.”

Martin said he knows not everyone can be convinced.

“We do have people who, for whatever reason, are philosophically against the vaccine,” he said. “We’re not going to move them.”

Martin said a larger cash incentive, however, could help with people who are on the fence about getting a vaccine, but not completely opposed.

“Those are the ones that I really want to target,” he said. “I think ($100) would shake apathy out of a lot of people.”

Commissioner Chrissy Sanderson, who is co-owner of Mockingbird Kitchen, said all 22 of her staff are fully vaccinated, but a cash incentive program could be helpful during the hiring process when talking to unvaccinated applicants.

Petty said he doesn’t think the A&P Commission should help administer or include funding the program, but it could be wise to provide support to the city through outreach to local workers.

Commissioner Andrew Prysby agreed and said it’s possible that a partnership between the two groups could also help people prioritize getting the vaccine.

“The idea of everyone working together with a match also shows that there’s multiple parties involved who want this to happen so that might push them over the edge,” said Prysby.

The commission’s decision was only a recommendation, but the group all agreed it was an idea worth recommending.

“I believe that every shot we get into an arm is one person safer from COVID, and one step closer to getting rid of the pandemic,” said Martin. “And if it turns out that it’s not a good enough opportunity, (the city) won’t have to spend the money and will still have it.”