GOP lawmakers blast DeWine’s COVID-19 vaccine incentives


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to use American Rescue Plan money as incentive to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is being met with criticism from some Republicans.

DeWine announced five weekly raffles with prizes up to $1 million for Ohioans age 18 and older who get at least one vaccine dose and a series of other raffles for those age 18 and younger for chances to win full, four-year scholarships to state colleges and universities.

DeWine said the money would come from unused taxpayer-funded federal COVID-19 funds from the Ohio Department of Health.

The drawings announcement came at the same time DeWine said most health orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic will end June 2. Gone will be mask mandates, social distancing requirements and capacity limitations for indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, called vaccines a personal choice and said the health orders should end immediately rather than in June.

“I do not support Governor Mike DeWine’s decision to offer taxpayer-funded incentives in an effort to get more Ohioans vaccinated before he lifts his health orders,” Ghanbari said. “Enticing five young Ohioans with full-ride college scholarships for commencing the vaccine, and $1 million for five Ohio residents 18 and older who have started the shots is unethical and unacceptable.”

Rep. John Cross, R-Kenton, praised DeWine for lifting the orders but said the state should not be treating health care like a game show.

“I am encouraged that Governor DeWine finally listened to the legislature and is removing the restrictive health orders across the state,” Cross said. “I do not support using game show gimmicks with our federal tax dollars. Instead of raffling off $5 million from the American Recovery Act, the governor should focus his efforts on removing the additional unemployment stimulus and getting Ohioans back to work. As our state opens back up, we cannot risk having a workforce shortage that impends our ongoing economic recovery.”

Ghanbari said he spoke with House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, to express his concerns and is calling on the Ohio Legislature to provide more accountability.

“[Wednesday’s] announcement is the most recent example of the Governor making a decision in a vacuum and not working with the Legislature,” Ghanbari said.

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