By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced tax credits to certain businesses that provide paid time off for their employees to get COVID-19 shots as he seeks to get corporate America more involved in the vaccination campaign.
“I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state to give employees the time off they need with pay to get vaccinated,” the Democratic president said.
Biden said the tax credits would apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
In a speech, Biden also said he expects the United States to reach his 100-day goal of getting 200 million coronavirus vaccine shots in arms by the end of the day even as the nation faces an increase in infections.
“Today we hit 200 million shots,” Biden said. “It’s an incredible achievement for the nation.”
Biden said the vaccine effort is entering a new phase with everyone over age 16 now eligible to be vaccinated. Biden said 80% of all seniors have received at least one shot, leading to a dramatic decline in the deaths of elderly Americans.
“If you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer,” Biden said.
Biden administration officials said the government plans to reimburse businesses for the cost of giving workers as many as 80 hours paid time off to get their shots or recover from any vaccination side effects.
The tax credit is for up to $511 per day for each worker, through September. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees employ roughly half of U.S. private sector workers. The tax credits were authorized under Democratic-backed COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation passed by Congress and signed by Biden despite Republican opposition.
The administration’s chief problem in its response to the pandemic is now shifting from securing enough vaccine supply to convincing enough Americans to seek out the available shots.
The United States has expanded vaccination eligibility to most American adults, and more than half that population has had at least one vaccine dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A third of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, as well as 26% of the population overall, it said.
But COVID-19 is still killing hundreds of Americans daily and many Americans have shown a reluctance to get vaccinated. Countries around the world with less successful vaccination campaigns than the United States are dealing with a spike in infections. The U.S. COVID-19 death toll of more than 568,000 leads the world.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham)