CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has made another move in hopes of encouraging his state’s residents to get vaccinated. His newest tactic will come in the form of $100 savings bonds.
Justice said residents ages 16 through 35 aren’t getting vaccinated as quickly as state officials would like, so he is offering these bonds to young adults who go and get their shots. The payments are retroactive as well, so everyone in the age bracket who has already been vaccinated will receive a bond.
“Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down,” Justice said. “I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them – and us – to get over the hump.”
Nearly 1.5 million West Virginians are eligible to get vaccinated, but only 52% of that population has received at least one dose, and the number of vaccinations given in the state drops each week.
The governor is striving to hit at least a 70% vaccination rate, and with 380,000 people living in the state aged 16 to 35, it’s a critical population for reaching that goal.
“If we can get to 70%, we’ll shut this virus down. If we do that, the masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, and the deaths become minimal,” said Justice.
The governor ran numbers on a whiteboard during his press conference and estimated that if 80% of unvaccinated 16- to 35-year-olds got their shots, the state could hit its desired threshold.
While Justice was hesitant to commit to providing the bonds to every single vaccinated young adult, he seemed confident in the state’s ability to provide around 275,000 payments. When asked why he settled on giving savings bonds instead of cash, Justice said he wanted the state’s youth to feel the weight of their impact on the world and that savings bonds felt more significant than cash.
“It is not just a dash in the pan and a couple of trips to Wendy’s with your friends and everything. This is something that they’re doing that is a real contribution to all of us that’s gonna save a bunch of lives,” he said.
This plan could cost around $27.5 million (if the estimated 275,000 individuals do get vaccinated), but Justice was authorized to use CARES Act funding.
“We have vetted this in every way that we possibly can to be assured that we can use our CARES dollars to do exactly just this,” said Justice.