The City of Vermillion, along with the United Way of Vermillion and the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company (VCDC) took a chance last month, betting that if they offered cold, hard Vermillion Bucks to Clay County citizens, it would compel them to get a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It turns out that bet is paying off.

The first two winners of the Vaccinate Vermillion Sweepstakes -- Talon Buie and Morgan Lorenzen -- were each awarded $2,500 in Vermillion Bucks last week.

They received their winnings in a check presentation ceremony held at the Community Connection Center last Friday. Buie could not be present for the ceremony and was represented by his fiancée, Shelby Irvine.

At the time of the awarding of the first two prizes of $2,500 in Vermillion Bucks, 800 people had entered the sweepstakes. Naturally the organizers want to see the numbers of entries and the number of Clay County citizens who receive the COVID-19 vaccine grow.

The sweepstakes will include two weekly $2,500 Vermillion Bucks drawings for 10 weeks, from Aug. 27 through Oct. 29. There will also be two random $5,000 Vermillion Bucks drawings.

To enter the sweepstakes, registrants are required to report their name, date of birth, email address, phone number, home address, and the name and location of the place that provided the COVID-19 vaccine.

Entry in the sweepstakes also requires an agreement with all official rules of the drawing and agreement to allow the sweepstakes coordinator through the United Way of Vermillion to verify each entry’s vaccination information if selected the winner.

Entry for children between the ages of 12 and 17 further requires a parent or guardian’s name, email address, and phone number.

People who do not have access to the internet may call 605-659-3367 to provide information to enter the drawing.

Acceptance of the prize constitutes agreement by the entrant to maintain confidentiality of their winning status until after the public announcements are made by the Vaccinate Vermillion Sweepstakes team.

The sweepstakes is made possible, in part, by the Vermillion City Council and its members’ decision in mid-August to allocate $50,000 of the over $1.8 million it is expected to receive thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act that was approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Research by city staff revealed that using American Rescue Plan Act funds for a vaccine incentive program is allowable.

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund info sheet states: “Programs that provide incentives reasonably expected to increase the number of people who choose to get vaccinated or motivate people to get vaccinated sooner than they otherwise would have, are an allowable use of funds so long as such costs are reasonably proportional to the expected public health benefit.”

The United Way of Vermillion is contributing $15,000 of funding to help with prizes and to administer and advertise the program. There may also be some private donations to help with the program.

City Manager John Prescott noted at the Vermillion City Council’s Aug. 16 meeting that Vermillion will receive $1,857,930 through the American Rescue Plan Act. It is anticipated that the first half of the funding -- $928,965 -- will be received yet this year, but to date, none of the funding has been received.

“This program has about six main areas that money can be utilized for -- it deals with infrastructure, broadband, and lots of different areas,” he said. “It’s a lot more defined than the money we dealt with last year through the CARES Act.”

Amongst those six areas defined in the bill, it has been suggested that one of those items is an incentive to encourage vaccination related to COVID-19.

“We did review it and in staff’s opinion, we do believe it is an eligible use … to utilize some of this American Rescue Plan money to help with the vaccination incentive program,” he said. “We believe the use is permissible.”

The Municipal League is working with the State of South Dakota to establish a process for the City to receive the funding. The second half of the funding will be available no sooner than one year after receipt of the first half of the funding.

The sweepstakes is a partnership of the United Way, VCDC, and the City. City Attorney Jim McCullough suggested last month that the City cannot run the lottery as a unit of government and it will ultimately need to acknowledge the raffle notification once the details of the program are worked out and the form is submitted.

“Essentially, the idea that the target would be to start Aug. 27 and for 10 weeks, hold weekly drawings,” Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise told council members at the Aug. 16 meeting. “Those drawings would be for two prizes of $2,500 in Vermillion Bucks and also during that time, there would be two $5,000 drawings.”

Proof of vaccination wouldn’t be required to enter the sweepstakes, she added, but would be needed for someone to collect winnings.

“There will be no collection of anyone’s medical records,” the mayor said. “We’re using a number of other vaccine lotteries, including one in Maine that has a really good layout of rules. Once someone is entered, they are entered for the whole time, so there is an advantage for entering early.

“The earlier you get your vaccination taken care of, the more chances you have to win,” she said.

Eligibility and Verification

Individuals are eligible to enter the Vaccinate Vermillion Sweepstakes if they are:

*Current resident of Clay County, South Dakota

*At least 12 years of age (for minors, a parent or guardian must complete the registration);

*Not an employee or board member of the United Way of Vermillion or a household member of such employees; and

*Have received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

General Rules

Entrants aged 12 and over will be eligible for the weekly entries. The coordinator will verify all eligibility criteria prior to awarding any funds. Individuals who cannot furnish verification of eligibility as determined solely by coordinator will not be awarded any prize funds.

Each registrant must have a U.S. CDC Vaccination Card to claim the prize. If lost or unable to locate it, individuals should contact the provider where they received their vaccination.

Selected winners will have only hours to respond before the Department moves to an alternate selected registrant. Selected registrants may be required to travel to the United Way of Vermillion office located at 9 Court Street.

The potential winner of the drawing will be randomly selected from among all eligible entries received. To be entered each week, potential winners must submit all information by 5 pm each Thursday. Potential winners are subject to verification of eligibility and compliance with the Official Rules. Upon the random selection of an entrant, verification of eligibility, and confirmation of understanding of the Rules, the entrant will be declared the official winner of the drawing and will be announced by 5 pm each Friday. Non-winners will remain in the drawings until the end of the sweepstakes.

Eligible residents can submit only one (1) entry for the drawing. Prior to the drawing, all duplicate entries will be removed. Individuals who submit multiple entries will be disqualified.

Alternate Winners

If a potential winner cannot be verified, violates the Official Rules, refuses to accept the prize, cannot be located, or is otherwise deemed ineligible at the sole discretion of the coordinator, an alternate potential winner shall be drawn and declared the official winner upon verification.

The promptness and degree of reasonableness of efforts to locate a potential winner or any decision to declare a potential winner ineligible under these Official Rules shall be at the sole discretion of the coordinator.

Alternates will be used in the order in which they were randomly selected as vacated spots arise.

Potential Winners

Any information entered for or by a minor child or adult under a guardianship must be validated by a parent or legal guardian prior to award of a prize. Any entrant subject to this condition must include the name, address, phone number and email address of the parent or legal guardian.

The United Way of Vermillion and the Vaccinate Vermillion Sweepstakes coordinator shall require presentation of information for verification prior to the award of any prize.

“With the requirement of Clay County residency, is there a concern that this may discriminate against USD students who do not have residency here, who might be the population that is most interested in this program?” asked City Council member Travis Lettelier.

“All the students who live in town have Clay County residency,” the mayor replied. “That’s what we learned from the census. Unless they’re a commuter, anyone who lives in the dorms, anyone who rents an apartment are all Clay County residents.”

That information, Collier-Wise added, is an important part of the campaign to promote the sweepstakes.

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