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Some Cincinnati companies offering cash incentive for employees to get vaccinated

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Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 19:18:17-04

CINCINNATI — Keara Heard brought her 16-year-old daughter Ciara Heard to Hamilton County’s clinic in Norwood so they could both get their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

There wasn’t any extra incentive for their visit Thursday morning; it was just about getting protected against the coronavirus.

But what if their employers had offered $100 for a shot in the arm?

“I think financially it would be a huge incentive, because people would think about, ‘Well, I have this bill to pay or I need to feed my children, so why not go get it?’” Keara Heard said. “Even if it's just a hundred dollars, times are hard these days for some people.”

That cash incentive is what some Cincinnati companies are hoping will be just the motivation workers need to get vaccinated.

Kroger, one of the largest employers in the Tri-State, confirmed it will be offering $100 to any associate who gets both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Kroger spokesperson Erin Rolfes said in a statement, "As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, we strongly encourage everyone – associates and customers – to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible to do so."

Kroger isn’t the only company looking to pay for employees to get the vaccine. The local United Food and Commercial Workers Union said there are $100 incentive programs for workers in other retailers that have attached pharmacies.

Also, the Cincinnati-based restaurant chain Taste of Belgium is offering employees cash to get vaccinated. Owner Jean-Francois Flechet said it's his way of thanking his workers for being responsible citizens and that getting the vaccine is the right thing to do.

“I was going to get vaccinated regardless, so it feels like a thank you for working through this whole time when other people may not have been and the dangers of it," said Taste of Belgium employee Bailey Herth. "Having the vaccination rate be up high enough to where we don't have to worry about it quite as much would be a huge relief."

Another Tri-State employer, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, hasn’t finalized a decision to incentivize the vaccine, but its chief development officer said in a statement that it is “working through ideas.”

Dorinda Jones, who also received a COVID-19 vaccine in Norwood Thursday, said her employer isn’t offering her any cash to get the shot, but she said she would love it if it were offered.

"A lot of people are still scared to take it,” Jones said. “So maybe this will help. Some people may want to go do it just because of that."

Even with the promise of some extra cash, the UFCW said survival is the main motivator for members to get vaccinated. As of March 31, the union reported more than 83,000 members were exposed to COVID-19 and more than 400 had died.

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Senior Reporter Larry Seward is focusing his reporting on the COVID-19 vaccine to bring you answers and information. Contact Larry at 513-667-4804 or larry.seward@wcpo.com.