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Colorado offering prison staff $500 to get COVID-19 vaccines

March 31, 2021 GMT

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Department of Corrections has announced it will provide $500 to all employees among its more than 6,000 staff members who get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I don’t think it’s offensive to say, ‘look, it’s such a public safety concern that we’re going to provide an incentive for you to get the vaccine,’” agency Executive Director Dean Williams said. “This investment of having our staff vaccinated, providing an incentive for that, is very small compared to the cost that we have incurred over dealing with a pandemic.”

The $500, subject to normal taxes and withholdings, will come from the agency budget to fund the bonus for those who complete vaccination by May 15, KUSA-TV reported.

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“We know that while this is a cost to the Department, it’s money well spent to incentive and to encourage our staff to get the vaccine,” Williams said.

More than 2,400 employees, or 40%, had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. About 250, or 4%, have received at least one dose. Based on the numbers so far, the agency will pay out $1.2 million.

There are about 40,000 state employees, but the bonus is only for Department of Corrections employees. For employees who did not receive the vaccination through work, they must report they got it elsewhere to be eligible for payment.

“We are providing an incentive for our staff, who during the course of this entire pandemic, have been required to go into the prison environment, to a densely populated environment, where we know that the virus has been circulating amongst that prison and that prison air,” Williams said.

“We’re not looking at state employees being forced to take a vaccine, but more getting them to where they have enough information to make an education decision that ends the public health crisis that we’re facing,” said Hilary Glasgow, executive director of Colorado WINS, the state employees union.

The general population of inmates will be eligible for the vaccine, just as the general public becomes eligible on Friday. The agency had been offering vaccines to inmates based on which phase they qualified.