This article appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of the Progress Times.
The city of Mission plans to pay residents $150 to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña and the City Council voted Monday to spend $1 million on a COVID-19 vaccination incentive program.
Under the program, Mission residents who receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will receive $100 gift cards. When they return for the second dose, Mission will provide them with $50 gift cards.
“So an individual that has not been vaccinated can get about $150 in gift cards,” said City Councilman Ruben Plata.
Mission would pay for the COVID-19 vaccine program with American Rescue Plan funding.
The city originally planned to spend $500,000 on COVID-19 assistance for individuals and $500,000 on COVID-19 assistance for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
During a meeting on Monday afternoon, the City Council combined them.
Under the program, Mission will ask local businesses to register with the city. Mission will also encourage residents to get vaccinated.
After they’re vaccinated, residents will receive gift cards that only work at businesses registered with the city.
“You have a win-win situation — and you have a pool of $1 million instead of the split,” O’caña said.
Any resident age 12 or older would be eligible to participate in the program.
After reviewing gift card options, Grants Administrator Michael Elizalde recommended Mission purchase $250,000 worth of gift cards from H-E-B.
Elizalde recommended H-E-B because the grocer offered Mission a 5% discount, allowing Mission to spend $250,000 and receive $262,500 worth of gift cards.
“After looking at the cost effectiveness and the options that we have, as far as time, to get this project implemented and off the ground within one week, and a savings of 5%, staff is recommending the H-E-B gift cards to implement this project,” Elizalde said.
The City Council decided to buy gift cards from Factor4, a company based in Broomall, Pennsylvania, instead.
While the Factor4 gift cards would cost $18,500, they could be used at any business that registered with the city — not just H-E-B.
“It’s a one-shop-all gift card, essentially,” Elizalde said. “So we’d hand this out to a citizen and any participating businesses that enroll in this program would be able to utilize this one gift card.”
Buying gift cards from Factor4 would take the burden off local businesses to create and manage their own gift card programs. It’s also more convenient for residents.
“They’re not going to use the $100 all at H-E-B. They can go to Brick Fire, Ranch House, whoever’s participating,” said City Councilwoman Jessica Ortega. “And that credit card’s going to work at all the areas. It’s going to cost the city, but they’re going to be able to go to different businesses.”
The City Council unanimously voted to spend the full $1 million on the program and use the Factor4 gift cards.
Elizalde said the gift cards would take about two weeks to arrive. Mission could start the vaccination incentive program in November.