Incentives are for faculty and students in varying locations.
The Mississippi State Board of Education recently hosted a special called teleconference meeting. They approved emergency procurements for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, and Mississippi Student Information Systems (MSIS) state funds to deliver systems and supports to school districts in response to COVID-19. The Board voted 6-1 to approve to procure services through an emergency process.
The U.S. Department of Education states that ESSER funds may be “used to implement public health protocols, including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff, providing COVID-19 vaccinations.”
School districts around the country are putting some financial backing behind the nationwide push to protect the public against COVID-19, offering cash payments as high as $1,000 and other prizes to employees who get the vaccine.
The Mississippi Department of Education released guidance in accordance with directions from the United States Department of Education (ED), ESSER funds may be used in a variety of ways to support vaccination efforts, including incentives for staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Local education agencies (LEAs) may incentivize vaccinations for personnel through amended contracts for licensed employees or other agreements for at-will employees.
Any incentives provided by an LEA requires that the amount of the incentive should be reasonable and not violate any other applicable laws or requirements. An initial review of incentives provided by districts in other states indicates amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Several school districts in Mississippi already have plans in place to use these federal stimulus funds to offer up to $1,000 for teachers and staff members who get vaccinated against COVID-19. They plan to use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. The most recent round of ESSER funds is from the American Rescue Plan.
The U.S. Congress passed the American Rescue Plan in March which caused Mississippi to receive $1.8 billion in funds. Within the $1.8 billion that Mississippi received, $369 million was given to both large and small cities, including $268 million that was split among cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 residents, and $578 million distributed to counties.
School districts such as Natchez-Adams School District are planning to or implementing vaccine incentives that will encourage teachers and students to get vaccinated. School districts are also offering incentives in the form of an extra day off or requiring unvaccinated students and teachers to get tested twice a week.
The NASD stated in their plan that to “increase vaccination among employees, a program of education and incentives should be adopted by the Board of Trustees.”
Though colleges do not have access to ESSER funds, they are still creating ways to encourage faculty and students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Colleges such as Mississippi State, Millsaps College, University of Southern Mississippi (USM), Mississippi Valley State University, and Mississippi University for Women (MUW) have started to offer incentives and prizes for students and faculty to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
Mississippi State incentives for students include raffles for $100 flexible dining dollars, $250 bookstore vouchers, $190 parking decal vouchers, and two drawings for $9,000 in tuition. MSU employee incentives have included National Championship gear and meal vouchers, with more planned.
At the University of Southern Mississippi, fully vaccinated students will be eligible for incentives that will be offered from Friday, July 30, 2021, through Friday, October 15, 2021. Five names will be drawn each week, one name for each of the following items; a total of 60 incentives will be awarded. Fall 2021 Semester Tuition (value of $4,602 each), Dining Dollars (value of $1,000 each), Barnes & Noble Bookstore Book Voucher (value of $300 each), Housing and Residence Life Room Credit (value of $2,000 each), and Parking Decal (value of $414 each).
All students at Millsaps College who submit verification of vaccination to the school’s health center are automatically entered in a drawing for gift cards ranging from $100 to $1,000. Students who submit proof of vaccination will also receive a $10 gift card.
Mississippi Valley State University is offering vaccinated students during the fall 2021 semester a chance to win prizes including housing, meal plans, and textbook refunds.