Fayetteville council approves $100 cash incentive program to encourage vaccinations

Paul Becker, the city’s chief financial officer, speaks Tuesday about how the city could use federal COVID relief funds to support a cash incentive program to encourage vaccinations.

Fayetteville Government Channel

Fayetteville will offer a cash incentive to encourage residents and workers to get vaccinated.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to launch a program that offers $100 to any Fayetteville resident or person who works in Fayetteville that shows proof of becoming fully vaccinated on or after Aug. 17.

The program will last through Oct. 15, and will be funded using $400,000 in federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

The White House last month encouraged state and local governments to offer cash 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 idea was first floated at the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission’s most recent meeting by Council Member Matthew Petty who said he wanted to see if there was interest in the idea before taking an official proposal to the City Council.

A&P 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.

At the time, Petty suggested a matching program strictly for local workers, but the proposal put to the council was for a full $100 payment to any resident or worker regardless of whether their employer offers an incentive.

Council members were all in favor of the program, but went back and forth about the allocation amount.

Council Member Teresa Turk said she likes the idea, but hasn’t seen many successful incentive programs around the country. She said she didn’t want to tie up $400,000 in federal relief funds that could be spent elsewhere if it’s needed.

“I hope that all of it is used, but we haven’t really seen that kind of response,” said Turk. “I just don’t want money left on the table idly if it is not successful.”

Council Member Mark Kinion agreed and suggested setting the cap at $250,000, but only Turk was on board for a reduction.

Petty said he thinks the $100 incentive is higher than what some areas and businesses have offered. He said if businesses want to add money to the program for their employees – which some are doing, it could be even more successful here. He said he would like to make sure there’s enough money to administer the program, so he told the council he would prefer to stick with the original $400,000 allotment, especially considering there’s an end date of Oct. 15.

Council Member Sloan Scroggin said while it may seem like a high dollar amount, the payoff could be exponential in savings for local hospitals, businesses, and people who might otherwise not be able work while sick. Scroggin said with the program only being open for two months, he also preferred the higher budget amount.

The council eventually voted 7-0 to set the $400,000 budget, and to approve the resolution.

The measure includes language stating that while anyone living or working in Fayetteville is eligible for the program, city staff are encouraged to work in their marketing efforts to ensure healthcare and social assistance workers, educators and support staffs, and hotel and food service workers are heavily targeted. The language also encourages local courts to consider reducing existing and future fines that otherwise would go to the city to persons who quickly become vaccinated after the passage of the resolution.

Paul Becker, the city’s chief financial officer, said the program could be rolled out in about two weeks.