SOUTH THOMASTON — A Maine town is offering $200 for people to get vaccinated.
South Thomaston is likely the first community in the state to take on the approach using American Rescue Plan funds. Both the Maine CDC and Maine Municipal Association said they are not aware of any other municipalities doing so.
The town’s vaccination rate is at 78 percent, according to the state’s zip code tracker. Town officials said that even if the money convinces just a few more to get vaccinated, it is worth it.
Select Board Chair John Spear proposed the new incentive after talking with an unvaccinated resident about why he hadn’t gotten the shot. He also heard President Joe Biden’s calls for communities to offer incentives using federal funding.
“We’re hoping to reach those types of folks that aren’t necessarily opposed to it but just haven’t taken the steps to get it done,” Spear said.
The requirements for who is eligible to receive the $200 is deliberately vague: residents, workers or frequent visitors. The town administrator will make the final call.
You must get your first shot between now and September 12, with payment after proof of vaccination.
“The idea is not to reward them. The idea is to protect our citizens,” Spear said.
The state already offered up lots of incentives. More than 350,000 Mainers registered for the Vaccinationland Sweepstakes. More than 5,200 signed up to get park passes, gift cards, Portland Sea Dog tickets and more.
“We just felt it was just another attempt and we should try to do our part as a town,” Spear said.
“I think everybody should be vaccinated and whatever incentives we can get people to be vaccinated will be great,” South Thomaston resident Ann Smith said.
Some in town are supportive of the town’s payment plan. Others understand, but are just disappointed.
“Kind of sad that we need to go this route to try to get people to do what people should be doing to protect their neighbors anyways,” South Thomaston resident Matthew Dionne said.
But with the threat of the Delta variant, kids going back to school and winter coming, the town says it’s time.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Spear said.
The Maine CDC said that they welcome efforts by communities like South Thomaston to get people vaccinated. They said this still remains the best way out of this pandemic.