On June 16, Gov. Mills announced the creation of a sweepstakes for Mainers who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The “Don’t Miss Your Shot: Vaccinationland Sweepstakes” will award the winner $1 for every Maine resident who receives at least one COVID-19 shot by 6:00 on July 4. The prize money will be paid out of funds allotted to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security (CARES) Act for vaccination purposes.
To be eligible, residents must have received their first dose since December 15, 2020 and must submit an entry before midnight on July 1, 2021. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 102,427 residents registered for the sweepstakes in the first 24 hours. The program is already a bigger draw than the governor’s vaccine incentive program unveiled last month.
At the time Mills announced the sweepstakes, the prize totaled $876,655. But that number could rise if all eligible Mainers over the age of 12 receive at least one dose by the July 4 deadline.
That deadline reflects President Biden’s goal of having 70% of Americans age 18 or older receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
However, Maine’s vaccination rate has already surpassed that goal. Maine hit the 70% mark for adults who had received at least one dose of the vaccine on May 12. As of June 17, 74% of Mainers age 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 66.7% are fully vaccinated. Maine’s rate of fully vaccinated residents over the age of 12 is one of the highest in the nation.
In a press release announcing the vaccination sweepstakes, Mills and DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew explained the push for vaccinations, despite the state’s already high rate, is a way to encourage even more people to get vaccinated.
“Our goal with the Don’t Miss Your Shot: Vaccinationland Sweepstakes is to encourage even more people to get the vaccine and declare their independence from COVID-19 as we approach the Fourth of July,” Mills said in a statement released by her office.
“The sweepstakes is just one way we’re promoting these safe and effective vaccines as we all work together to put the pandemic behind us as quickly as possible,” Lambrew said in the same statement.
Neither DHHS or the governor’s office returned a request for comment.
States’ use of CRF funds are limited to necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, not accounted for in a states’ budget enacted most recently before March 27, 2020, and that were incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.
But the federal Department of the Treasury has stated that CRF may be used for lotteries and other cash incentives for vaccines so long as they can be “reasonably expected” to raise vaccination rates and the costs incurred are proportional to the expected public health benefit.
However, the supplemental budget passed March 15 requires any COVID-19 related expenditure the governor proposes using discretionary funds from the federal government receive approval by a majority vote in both legislative houses if it was not approved prior to the effective date on which the budget went into effect.
Maine received $1.25 billion in CRF from the CARES Act. On December 11, 2020, Mills’ office announced the governor had committed the full amount of the funds the state received, with “nearly half” supporting Maine businesses affected by the pandemic and “significant funding” going to health and safety initiatives.
According to the state’s COVID-19 federal funds tracker, Maine allotted 29% of its CRF funds to healthcare businesses. As of March 15, 2021, approximately $25,504,034 was spent on purchasing personal protective equipment for the stockpile managed by the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Maine CDC and distributed to long-term care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. An additional $999,000 was spent on infection control training for non-nursing home congregate care facilities.