Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker holds a press conference. | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that state employees who receive the COVID-19 vaccine can enter a new lottery system just for them offering cash bonuses, first-class airline tickets, and sports tickets.

Pritzker announced the new pilot program, which is offering a range of incentives to state employees who work in direct care facilities and receive at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA), the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) announced the drawings to eligible employees in late June and will announce winners on July 19.

Dozens of frontline employees will be chosen in drawings conducted by the Illinois Lottery.

Winners will receive cash bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $10,000; state prizes like a choice among lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum passes or memberships and State Fair admissions and concert passes; airline vouchers for first-class tickets to any domestic U.S. destination or coach tickets to any international destination on American Airlines; sports tickets to home game tickets of the Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Fire FC and St. Louis Cardinals.

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“Our state employees have worked tirelessly on the frontlines throughout the pandemic and I’m thrilled to announce this new opportunity to encourage them to get vaccinated,” Pritzker said.

“By further increasing state employee vaccination rates, we’re not just protecting our staff, we’re protecting our vulnerable residents in state facilities and our surrounding communities. Getting vaccinated is truly how we protect ourselves from new variants and put this pandemic behind us.”

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Illinois’ vaccination rates are good but “we cannot let our guard down.”

“Across Illinois, we are seeing COVID-19 variants that spread more easily and quickly, and are more dangerous. Right now, the vaccines available have proven to be effective against these variants. However, if the virus is allowed to further circulate, it can and will mutate further. Getting vaccinated now can help stop the spread and mutation of the virus, and protect you and those around you,” Ezike said.

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The governor’s office said that frontline state employees have protected Illinois’ most vulnerable residents from IDHS developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals to IDVA veterans’ homes to IDJJ and IDOC facilities.

Employees who have taken at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 12 will be entered into the free drawing. State agencies announced the drawings to eligible employees in late June.

“Increasing levels of vaccination rates is the only way that we can win the battle against COVID-19 and return to a sense of normalcy,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou.

“We want to make sure that every one of our health care workers who wants a vaccine can get one, and I hope that this latest effort inspires an even greater level of participation from our heroic staff.”

Nate Gatten, Senior Vice President of Global Government Affairs for American Airlines, said that the company is proud to play a role in this effort to boost vaccination rates in Illinois.

“We know vaccines are key to beating the virus and getting back to activities like visiting loved ones and traveling for leisure and business. We commend and appreciate all those who’ve worked on the frontlines during the pandemic, and our team welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the important work happening at the local, state and federal level to defeat COVID-19,” Gatten said.

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Prizes may be transferable, at the discretion of the awarding agency, and cash awards will be considered taxable income. Those who can attest they would take the vaccine, but have a documented medical or religious exemption, may also be entered into the drawing.

More than 72% of Illinois adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

This initiative builds upon ongoing efforts to encourage Illinoisans to get vaccinated, the governor’s office said.

Last month, Pritzker introduced a new $10 million “All In for the Win” promotion that rewards all vaccinated Illinoisans by automatically entering them into a series of cash and scholarship lotteries with prizes — up to $1 million.

To find the nearest vaccine provider, visit vaccines.gov, text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233.