GENESEE COUNTY, MI — County officials say they’re interested in offering a local lottery for residents who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and are urging Prosecutor David Leyton to find a legal way for them to get it done.

Several commissioners said Wednesday, June 2, that they have an interest in a lottery to encourage more residents to get vaccinations despite an initial opinion from Leyton that they cannot use money from their general fund to do so.

Commissioner Bryant Nolden, D-Flint, said he’s interested in offering a lottery similar to Ohio’s $1 million Vax-a-Million program, which a recent Michigan State University graduate won last week while a Dayton-area teen was awarded the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program, according to The Associated Press.

Leyton said his office is continuing to research whether federal COVID-19 relief funds can be used for a lottery prize but said state law doesn’t allow for money from the county’s general fund to be used.

“Michigan laws are different than Ohio,” Leyton said. “COVID-19 money might be eligible … We’re going to be looking at it. The problem is I don’t believe the county has any of those funds yet.”

Genesee County is in line to receive $78.7 million in coronavirus relief funds.

While 46.6 percent of Michigan residents are now fully vaccinated, just 36.8 percent of county residents have been.

“I would ask that we put an emphasis on … not to research whether we can or can’t but to research how we can,” county commission Chairman Mark Young, D-Grand Blanc, said during a committee meeting Wednesday. “I want the emphasis on what we are trying to do.

“We’ve had several communities within the state of Michigan that have done something similar, We have other states that have done something similar,” Young said. “Reach out to somebody that has perhaps a greater deal of expertise … if you don’t think you can make it happen.”

While Ohio’s COVID-19 lottery has inspired similar vaccine-incentive lotteries in Colorado, Maryland, New York state and Oregon, according to the AP, Michigan has not followed suit so far.

Bobby Leddy, press secretary to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement to MLive-The Flint Journal that the “most significant incentive for getting a vaccine is to be able to get back to normal and safely do the things we love with our friends and families.”

“We applaud Michigan businesses for stepping up to provide fun incentives to those Michiganders who have received a vaccine,” Leddy’s statement says. “We’re always thinking of innovative ways to encourage Michiganders to get vaccinated, and are reviewing our options at this time.”

Commissioners did not discuss how much they might be willing to offer as a prize if a county lottery is allowed.

“I’m just really interested in seeing what we can do. I think that is a way (to encourage vaccinations),” Nolden said. “We want to make sure everybody is vaccinated that wants to be.”

Related:

Flint’s share of COVID-19 relief bill tops $99M, Genesee County to get $78M

Michigan coronavirus data for Wednesday, June 2: State now ranks 14th in cases per capita

Genesee County replacing two COVID-19 vaccination mega sites with one

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