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East Flatbush nonprofit set to get city windfall for vaccine outreach efforts

Eric Waterman, executive director of East Flatbush Village, talks vaccine incentives with Mayor Bill de Blasio during an Aug. 31 press conference.
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Local nonprofit East Flatbush Village is set to receive a considerable cash infusion from the city after referring hundreds of neighborhood residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The East Flatbush nonprofit has referred nearly 500 Brooklynites to get vaccinated since June as part of the city’s Vaccine Referral Bonus program, wherein organizations and businesses can get a $100 incentive for every person they refer to get a vaccine at a city-run site. The person getting the vaccine is also eligible for the $100 incentive.

East Flatbush Village — a wide-ranging community organization mainly concentrated in Caribbean sections of Brooklyn whose work includes things like mentorship programs for local kids, after-school programs, and anti-violence initiatives — has referred 491 people to get vaccinated, executive director Eric Waterman told Brooklyn Paper. The group is now eligible for the city’s maximum $20,000 reward under the program.

Waterman said the group simply asked folks they interacted with at their other events if they had been vaccinated, and helped sign up those who hadn’t but were open to the jab. When the signee arrives at a city vax site, members of the city’s Test and Trace Corps ask if they were referred by anyone, to which the person can say East Flatbush Village or whatever other group made the referral.

As such, Waterman said that the group didn’t pay particularly close attention to how much money the city would be providing, but moreso to how many people they were signing up, and kept going well after they passed the number where they would stop earning more money per sign-up.

“The whole premise wasn’t necessarily the incentive, it was about getting people vaccinated,” Waterman told Brooklyn Paper.

Speaking at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefing Tuesday morning, Waterman said that signing people up for vaccines at other events provided comfort and a sense of safety for people who otherwise may feel hesitant towards the shot.

“Our vaccination success has come solely on the fact that we have been doing work in all those other areas,” Waterman said. “[They] allowed us to be in spaces where people trust that when we say this is an opportunity to, of course, be safe, make sure your families are safe, and also get access to something that may be not as accessible to you.”

Hizzoner said that the effort can have a multiplier effect as more people hear that the vaccine works.

“I’m particularly happy that we have over 400 more New Yorkers who are vaccinated,” the mayor said. “And that means more people will hear the story that it works, that it was easy, there’s going to be a huge multiplier effect here.”

The $20,000 reward will be disbursed by the city “after the conclusion of the program,” a spokesperson for the mayor said, though they did not clarify when that would be. For a charity like East Flatbush Village, Waterman said that every dollar counts, and $20,000 will go a long way toward funding their initiatives, or free up dollars that otherwise would have gone towards wages, rent, utilities, or other administrative expenses.

“It means we can have more pop-up events, it means we can get more resources for back-to-school giveaways,” Waterman said. “Maybe turkey giveaways, or a Halloween harvest where we do activities for the kids, holiday giveaways things of that nature.”

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