(CALMATTERS) – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday unveiled the country’s largest vaccine incentive program at a high school in Los Angeles — a city in which only 7% of high schoolers have returned for in-person learning — suggesting that he is once again marrying governing and campaigning as a recall election looms in the distance.

The governor’s $116.5 million “Vax for the Win” program includes the following prizes, as CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports:

  • $1.5 million for 10 “grand cash prize” winners picked by random draw on June 15.
  • $50,000 for 30 winners picked by random draw on June 4 and 11.
  • $50 gift cards for the next 2 million Californians to get fully vaccinated.
  • Californians who are already vaccinated are automatically entered in drawings for the first two prize categories.

Newsom said the incentive program is intended to help the Golden State ramp up inoculations before June 15, when the state plans to fully reopen its economy and permit fully vaccinated Californians to go without masks in most situations.

Yet aspects of the program were reminiscent of the ambitious proposals in Newsom’s $100 billion “California Roars Back” stimulus plan, suggesting that the cash incentives are another way for the governor to appeal to voters as he works to fend off an all-but-certain recall election.

And, potentially in a bid to appease California parents frustrated their kids still aren’t back in school, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner opened the press conference by linking Newsom’s vaccine incentives to campuses reopening.

  • Beutner: “I cannot tell you how important this effort is the governor is bringing to our community to make sure we all have access to the vaccine … and all are encouraged to participate.”