Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced a special lottery to give away millions of dollars in prizes and scholarships to fully vaccinated residents in a bid to drive up Massachusetts' vaccination rate.
The lottery gives fully vaccinated adults the chance to win one of five $1 million prizes and those ages 12 to 17 the chance to win one of five prizes of $300,000 in scholarship funds.
The scholarships will be awarded via a 529 College Savings Plan managed by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and can be used for tuition, room and board, and other expenses as schools across the country.
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Fully vaccinated residents will be able to enter the lottery starting July 1; drawings will be held weekly for five weeks starting July 26.
“The Commonwealth leads the nation in vaccinating our residents, with almost four million people fully vaccinated, and our goal remains ensuring everyone that wants a vaccine has access to one,” Baker said in a press conference.
“The VaxMillions Giveway is one of the many ways our administration is encouraging people to get the vaccine, and we are grateful for the partnership of Treasurer Goldberg and the Mass State Lottery in developing the program.”
Baker said the program was developed because similar lotteries in California and Ohio had managed to drive more vaccinations.
Baker said the state had surpassed four million people fully vaccinated against the virus. The state's COVID data, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, has fallen enough that the Baker administration was able to lift the state of emergency as well as all remaining COVID restrictions.
Nearly 8.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in Massachusetts: more than 4.3 million first shots and over 3.7 million second shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as well as more than 264,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Health officials reported that 3,970,444 Bay State residents have been fully vaccinated as of Sunday.
Despite the encouraging data, Baker said it remains important to get as many people as possible vaccinated as possible.
"The more people we get vaccinated the better," Baker said. "The (COVID-19) variants make this the kind of thing where we should do everything we can to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can."
The announcement comes after the state legislature failed to move legislation to Baker's desk that would keeping in place authorization for remote public meetings, eviction protections, and restaurant relief before the state of emergency expired.
A final vote on an extension will not come until, at the earliest, hours after the emergency declaration lifted at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that proposes months-long extensions for a series of measures that would otherwise expire. The House plans to take up its version of the bill, which has not yet been released, on Tuesday, and a spokesperson said this week the House plans to work quickly to get a final bill to the governor.
Baker said Tuesday it was his "hope and anticipation" that a bill gets sent to his desk in "the next few days."
Meanwhile, Baker released a $2.65 billion capital budget plan Monday that he said would make substantial investments in housing, transportation and education, among others.
Baker said as the state emerges from the pandemic, the capital plan would strengthen and modernize infrastructure throughout the state while expanding opportunities.
"These meaningful investments will encourage economic growth and strengthen existing initiatives around housing, climate resiliency, health and human services, and food security — critical priorities that have proven even more important as a result of the COVID-19 crisis," Baker said.
The plan would also cover the state's share of costs for the redevelopment of the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, according to Baker, who said his administration is also applying for federal funds to help pay for the construction.
A COVID-19 outbreak at the 240-bed, state-run facility last year killed 76 veteran residents. Baker last month signed a $400 million spending bill to finance construction of a new home.
The capital spending would also maintain the administration's commitment to addressing and preparing for climate change, Baker said.