Grand Forks city administrators plan to use publicly subsidized gift cards to entice people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

City staff plan to offer $50 “Support Small-Love Local” digital gift cards to people who receive the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a large-scale vaccination clinic at the Alerus Center next week. The clinic is scheduled for noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the center.

Vaccination rates have ticked upward since July, but case rates have, too, and Grand Forks County is still several thousand residents away from reaching even a conservative estimate for “herd” immunity from the virus. Offering the cards, which have been administered by nonprofit Evolve Grand Forks since April and are good at several dozen businesses in the area, could incentivize people to receive a vaccine.

“That money stays in Grand Forks, hits those small businesses that really could benefit from the business, the sales tax stays in Grand Forks,” Greta Silewski, city public affairs manager who sits on the nonprofit’s board of directors, told the Herald. “And hopefully get people vaccinated.”

Money for the cards comes from the city government, in a sense. Earlier this year, Grand Forks administrators paid Evolve $40,000 to offer “bonus bucks” to people who buy cards worth certain amounts: paying $100, for instance, nets a card with $140 on it. The additional money on the card comes from the city subsidy.

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Of that subsidy, about $30,000 remains. At $50 per card, that means the vaccine clinic next week could dole them out to approximately 600 people.

The gift cards themselves, though, aren’t the small credit card lookalikes that pop up around the holidays. They’re “e” cards, which means people who want one after their vaccination will be asked to provide an email address or let clinic staff use an email address on file at Altru Health System.

To register for the clinic: call 701-780-6358 or visit http://www.grandforksgov.com/covidrewards