The great vaccine incentive arms race has hit Washington.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new lottery program Thursday in the state’s latest push to get more people vaccinated to curb the spread of COVID-19. Five lucky Washingtonians will win a cash giveaway for getting vaccinated.
Four residents could win $250,000 while one person could hit the jackpot — $1 million.
Other prizes are up for grabs, including tuition money, airline and game tickets and tech gifts like game consoles and smart speakers.
“Good luck in the lottery. This will be the most important one you’ll ever be in,” Inslee said in a press conference Thursday.
Some details are still in the works but here’s everything you need to know so far. Be sure to check back for more details.
Who is eligible?
All Washington residents, who are 16 or older, regardless of citizenship, are eligible if they have received at least one dose. Proof of Washington residency is required to claim a prize.
If you’re an employee (or family member of an employee) working at the Office of the Governor, Washington State Lottery or Department of Health, you’re out of luck and won’t be eligible for any incentives.
People who are incarcerated in a state, federal, city or county correction facility are also not eligible, according to the Washington Lottery.
Do I need to enter the contest?
The only thing Washingtonians need to do is get vaccinated. The winners will be drawn from the DOH immunization database, which includes those who have been vaccinated previously.
Inslee said the state is trying to use federal databases to fill in any gaps. It is not immediately clear whether those who received vaccines outside of Washington but live within the state will be included in the drawing.
How do I know if I’m in the state’s system?
You can check if you’re in the state database by signing up for MyIRmobile.com, where you can also download and print your vaccine records.
DOH advises residents to call 1-833-VAX-HELP with any questions about your Washington state vaccination records or the MyIR site. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide identifying information, such as name, date of birth, and address. They’ll only be able to tell you whether or not a record exists in the system.
Some vaccine providers, such as the Veteran’s Administration, the Department of Defense and providers outside of Washington do not enter records into the state’s immunization information system.
However, Washington’s Lottery said they are currently requesting information from these departments and trying to find alternative methods for people to add their records to the database.
“Unfortunately for this promotion, there is not a single source of data on vaccinations for every single resident of the state,” Washington’s Lottery spokesperson Dan Miller said in a statement.
Do I have a chance if I got vaccinated out of state?
At the moment, no.
Those records are not in the state’s system. But Miller said the state is in contact with federal agencies about creating a secure way to share vaccination records.
“If such a system is created, we also may be able to receive records from other states, as well, but we are still exploring this option at this time,” he said.
When are the drawings?
Every Tuesday starting June 8. The Washington State Lottery will start with a weekly drawing for $250,000 for four weeks, before drawing for the $1 million grand prize on July 13.
The cash prizes will be for residents 18 and up. Separate drawings will be done every week for tech prizes as well as tuition money for those ages 12 to 17.
How are winners picked and how will I find out if I won?
Every eligible resident will be assigned a number by the health department. Lottery officials will draw numbers using its random number generating system.
That number will be shared with the health department to match with the name of the individual, who will then be contacted by the Washington’s Lottery on how to collect their prize. Cash prize winners will be contacted the day after the drawing.
Only names of winners will be shared with the Washington’s Lottery.
Winners will have 72 hours to respond. Otherwise the prize will be forfeited to an alternate winner. No one may win more than one cash prize, but could be eligible for a non-cash prize.
According to Miller, winners will primarily be reached by phone. Or they will be by what information is listed in the state’s immunization system. If you miss the call, the official will leave a voicemail identifying themselves and include a detailed message on what day and time the winner must call back.
If anyone has concerns about the call or email, they can reach Washington’s Lottery at 360-810-2888.
What other prizes are there?
There will be 30 prizes of one year of free tuition to 12 to 17 year-olds. The tuition credits will be given to families through the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.
Besides that, weekly drawings include:
- 2 free Alaska Airlines tickets.
- 4 tickets to a Seattle Mariners game and one full suite prize.
- 4 tickets to a Seattle Sounders game in August, plus two autographed jerseys.
- 10 tickets to a Seattle Storm game.
- 4 club level seats at a Seattle Seahawks game, plus parking passes.
- 4 OL Reign 2021 season tickets, plus team-signed jersey.
- 300 Xboxes, Nintendo Switches, 100 Echo Dots and 25 Google Nests.
The state is also giving $1 million to Washington’s four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges to run their own drawings for tuition and book assistance.
Is the prize money taxed?
Yes. The Washington State Lottery reports to the Internal Revenue Service any prize valued at $600 or more, according to Lottery Director Marcus Glasper.
Winners will need to claim their winnings when filing their 2021 federal taxes. Washington’s Lottery is required to withhold 24% for taxes for any prize valued at $5,000 or more, before providing a check to the winner.
State officials are taking a slightly different approach with the college tuition prizes being awarded to minors. In those cases, the state will pay the 24% withholding taxes. The recipients will still have to file a 2021 tax return, however, and would be liable for any additional taxes owed.
How is this being funded?
The lottery is being funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund that was appropriated by the State Legislature. Merchandise and ticket prizes were donated by Washington companies and sports teams.
Got any other questions about the lottery or Washington’s incentive program? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times reporter Joseph O’Sullivan contributed to this article.