WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged businesses to give workers paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine, an entreaty he made when announcing the United States met early his goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days.
“No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated,” Biden said.
Dozens of Americans are rolling up their sleeves for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine; The lastest shots are tweaked to guard against a worrisome mutated version of the virus. (April 12)
With more than half of adults, and more than 80% of seniors, having gotten at least one shot, the administration is turning its attention to workers.
Only 43% of working adults have received a shot, according to an administration official, who said surveys show incentives like gift cards or paid time off can be particularly motivating.
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed Congress last month included tax credits to reimburse small businesses for giving employees paid leave to get vaccinated or to recover from any after-effects.
President Joe Biden visits a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary, Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Alexandria, Va. Evan Vucci, AP (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
The IRS is expected on Wednesday to post instructions for how businesses can claim the credit, worth up to $511 per day off per worker. The reimbursement is available to companies with fewer than 500 workers, covering nearly half of all private sector employees.
“Businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line,” Biden said. “There’s no excuse for not getting it done.”
Helped by states and pharmacies, many large employers are already hosting vaccine clinics for workers.
Vaccines will increasingly be going to where people are, according to an administration official, in contrast to the initial rollout when demand greatly exceeded supply and people would willingly drive long distances to get an appointment. That could help officials reach younger people who are less at risk of serious illness and may need a more convenient and simpler process to get vaccinated.
More: Have a loved one who doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s how to talk to them.
While Biden is urging employers to help protect the workforce, the federal government is staying clear of imposing mandates.
As the country opens up vaccines to anyone 16 and over the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that we are still in a “complicated stage” with coronavirus. (April 19)
But the administration is encouraging businesses to provide both vaccination information and incentives beyond their own workers, such as through product giveaways and public service announcements.
Biden praised the grocery chain Kroger for offering employees $100 to get vaccinated. He said a hair salon in Springfield, Ohio, has helped more than 200 customers make vaccination appointments.
All adults ages 16 and older became eligible for vaccination in every state on Monday.
“If you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer,” Biden said.
Before taking office, Biden pledged to get 100 million vaccines into the arms of Americans in his first 100 days, a goal many considered lofty given the patchwork federal response he inherited and the fact that no vaccine had been authorized for use at the time.
But the quick pace of vaccinations in January led health experts to question whether the 100 million goal was too low. CDC data showed the country already had surpassed that pace by late January.
Last month, Biden opened his first formal news conference by setting a new goal of administering 200 million COVID vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
Biden, who will reach his 100th day in office next week, said statistics released Thursday will show that threshold was crossed Wednesday.
“Today, we did it,” Biden said, calling the achievement a “powerful demonstration of unity and resolve.”
And, as he has done throughout the pandemic, Biden continued to urge Americans not to drop their guard while the virus and its variants are still circulating.
“We all need to mask up, until the number of cases goes down,” he said, “until everyone has a chance to get their shot.”
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