ST. LOUIS — A lottery to try to boost the city’s lagging coronavirus vaccination rate has been added to a list of possible uses for some of the $517 million in new federal pandemic aid allotted to the city.
The idea came Saturday from a city board advising Mayor Tishaura O. Jones on how to use an initial allocation of $68 million that Jones wants distributed soon in direct relief to residents affected by the pandemic.
Richard von Glahn, of the Stimulus Advisory Board‘s direct relief subcommittee, said the smaller panel added the lottery idea to its previously announced list of recommendations for spending the $68 million.
The full board on Saturday then endorsed the revised list and sent it to the mayor for her review.
The subcommittee said funding to increase community awareness of vaccine efforts could include a lottery “or other incentives” to boost vaccination rates.
Various giveaways have been tried across the country to boost vaccination numbers, from paid time off to the chance to win as much as $5 million — the grand prize in New Mexico’s vaccine lottery. The St. Louis committee didn’t suggest an amount to be offered.
Another incentive that could be considered in the city could be gift cards, one member said. A bill introduced at the St. Louis County Council meeting last week would spend $875,000 of the county’s federal pandemic aid on thousands of gift cards to residents getting inoculated against the virus. The cards could be used at groceries, gas stations and other businesses.
As of Sunday, only 30.7% of city residents had completed the vaccination process, below the 36.5% total across Missouri and the 38.8% figure for St. Louis County.
Data has shown a lag in vaccination rates in Black-majority areas of north St. Louis and north St. Louis County compared to whiter, more affluent areas.
Jones is expected to announce Tuesday what she will include in her proposal to submit to aldermen and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the city’s chief fiscal body.
A spokesman for Jones, Nick Dunne, said Monday that he didn’t know the likelihood of a lottery making it into the mayor’s proposal. He added, however, that Jones is interested in holding a series of neighborhood meetings to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated.
The Stimulus Advisory Board recommended devoting $9.65 million to health-related initiatives, $19.89 million for housing and utility assistance, $13.08 million for aiding the homeless and $14.5 million for economic relief.
The latter includes $5 million to include one-time grants of $350 to $500 to about 10,000 unemployed city residents affected by Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to eliminate extended federal unemployment benefits in Missouri.
The advisory board on Saturday added wording to recommend that such aid also be available for people who lost jobs but were ineligible for such benefits because of their immigration status.
Other tweaks in the subcommittee’s original plan include adding $2 million for home repairs for seniors and people with disabilities and $500,000 to set up a second “tiny home” development for homeless people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.