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Coronavirus Response: Resources for State Legislators

March 2020 in , ,

As the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, we’re compiling resources here to help you navigate the many challenges this presents to your community.  We will use this space to share policy, communication, and organizing resources that you can use to respond to the health, economic, and social impacts this is having on your communities.  

We know that crises like these have disproportionate impacts on vulnerable and low-income communities and want to make sure we stand up for those most at risk. As legislators, you are uniquely positioned to find solutions that mitigate the harm for at-risk medical populations (people with chronic health conditions, people with disabilities, the elderly), hourly workers, the millions of Americans without access to health care or paid sick days, and everyone who is one health emergency away from financial ruin.

The resources below can help you use your platform to provide clear, scientifically-based information to the public and advocate for better policies.

If you have actions or new policies that are happening in your states, please share them so we can provide them to other legislators across the country. Please email helpdesk@stateinnovation.org.




The Basics


Legislative Sessions and Operating Remotely

  • At extraordinary moments like today, state legislatures must adopt methods of flexible, remote governance while prioritizing transparency and public access. Read SiX’s blog post, Legislating in a Pandemic: Transparent & Remote Governance, for examples of rule/statutory changes and executive orders that have enabled states to adapt and govern amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource will be updated periodically as states try new methods and lessons are learned.   
  • NCSL is tracking the suspension or postponement of legislative sessions here. 

Health Care


Unemployment


See SiX’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy playbook here.

Policy Recommendations:

Examples of States’ Paid Leave Legislation in response to COVID-19

  • Offer at least 24 hours of paid sick leave per year (Kentucky)
  • Require employers to provide up to 40-56 hours of paid sick leave per year (New York)
  • Provide law enforcement officers sick leave for absences due to COVID-19 (New York)
  • Create a grant program to provide paid leave to quarantined contract workers (Ohio House and Senate)
  • Provides isolated or quarantined state employees with shared leave (Washington)
  • Expand the definition of a qualifying “serious health condition” to include workers and their families’ self-quarantining after exposure to a communicable disease (New Jersey)
  • Make COVID-19 related leave eligible for unpaid family and medical leave and allow an employer to use accrued vacation time or other time off to get paid (California)

Additional Resources


Preventing Evictions

  • NHLP’s Summary and Analysis of Federal CARES Act Eviction Moratorium
  • A running list of eviction orders and court orders can be found here.
  • CA Executive Order authorizes local governments to halt evictions related to the pandemic, slow foreclosures and protect against utility shutoffs.
    • Housing advocates have called for more aggressive measures that would halt rent increases and waive late fees among other measures. Read the call for these measures from Healthy LA, a group of housing and labor advocates, here.
  • In CT, all evictions and ejectments are stayed until at least March 27.
  • Emergency orders from NH prohibiting evictions/foreclosures.
  • NC Courts have halted evictions and foreclosures
  • MI has at least one court that put a stay on evictions
  • NY has a statewide ban on evictions and a bill to freeze rent.
  • The PA Supreme Court announced a halt on evictions and will consider a bill to freeze rents and mortgages.

Preventing Utility Shut Offs and Payment Deferment

  • Compilation of government bodies & regulators and specific utilities that have ordered disconnections suspended
  • Federal Response
    • National Women’s Law Center is pushing a nationwide halt to utility shutoffs and evictions to ensure people do not experience homelessness because of the economic havoc and advocating for the bipartisan “Eviction Crisis Act” to help ensure families can access emergency help.
  • Examples of State Responses

Democracy and Voting

2020 Census 

  • The 2020 Census is still on and it is more important than ever to get out the count and encourage communities to self-respond. SiX’s Census Get Out the Count Toolkit for State Legislators has everything you need to promote the census digitally with your constituents during the pandemic and is being updated regularly. Here’s the most important message the all legislators should be lifting up: 
    • “Responding to the census has never been easier. You can fill out the form from the comfort of your home—online, over the phone, or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker in person.”
  • To make sure you’re staying informed and sharing the latest information with your constituents, check out the Census Bureau’s news room and overview of 2020 Census Operational Adjustments Due to COVID-19.
    • As of March 23, the Bureau had decided to extend the enumeration and self-response deadline by two weeks (from July 31 to August 14); delay in-person enumeration activities (e.g. Group Quarters and Service-based Enumeration, Non-response Follow-up); and delay in-person training of new census staff.

Voting & Elections


Reproductive Rights

  • In this urgent global health pandemic, anti-abortion lawmakers are once again playing politics with people’s lives and health, and there are very real reproductive health impacts and needs this moment presents. Here are actions state lawmakers should consider in coordination with their state coalitions and reproductive health care providers.
  • The Massachusetts Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality issued a memo clarifying that abortion care is not considered “nonessential,” ensuring it is exempt from the ban on procedures that should be canceled or postponed.
  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order makes clear that pregnancy-related care and procedures should continue as needed.
  • Guttmacher Institute Policy Analysis, “The COVID-19 Outbreak: Potential Fallout for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with seven other reproductive health organizations, issued a statement deeming abortion as an essential service. Read more.

Education


Rural Communities and Agriculture

See SiX’s talking points and policy solutions for rural communities and local agriculture.

The $2 trillion stimulus package included $9.5 billion dollars for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers. You can read a summary compiled by the National Farmers Union here. Here is an analysis from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The United States Senate Committee on Finance has a breakdown on their website of the rural healthcare resources in the recent Stimulus package. You can read it here.

Resources for Farmers in Your District

  • Farmers are struggling all across the US for a variety of reasons. The added stress of COVID-19 might be more than folks can handle. Farm Aid provides a Farmers Resource Network and there is a hotline ( 1-800-FARM-AID /1-800-327-6243) for farmers in crisis.  Further, National Farmers Union has a Farm Stress Training to help support farmers in crisis. 
  • Ensure that farmers and ranchers are included in any aid to businesses for revenue lost due to the crisis; invest in community-based emergency efforts to buy food from local farmers and get it to those in need, expand access to credit and offer debt flexibility at the state level to ensure that farmers are able to plant, grow and harvest the food we need this year.  

Resources for Farm Workers

Here is a guidance from NC Health & Human Services for migrant farm workers and their employers (only in English)

  • Here is a template that can be used as a temporary permit for agricultural essential employee. 
  • Farm Worker Justice released a statement on helping to ensure farmworkers are protected from COVID-19. Read it here.

Immigration

  • National Resources 
    • American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) COVID-19 Resource Center is tracking all the latest government agency updates and guidance.  
    • National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has an update on access to health care for immigrants and their families. 
    • The American Immigration Council (AIC) blog covers topics including the CARES Act, the vital role of health care workers from the immigrant community, the impact of the virus on asylum policy, and more. 
    • United Farm Workers (UFW) and others’ statement on a range of concerns for farmworkers amid COVID-19, including immigration and migration. 
    • Tahirih Justice Center’s issue brief explains the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant survivors of gender based violence and how loss of employment, isolation and violence in the home and continued ICE operations and detentions, among other factors, amplify their risk. 
    • This comprehensive national resource guide for undocumented communities has been making the rounds among advocates nationwide.
  • State Resources
    • Alabama immigrant rights groups identify the state’s role in ensuring the statewide information hotline is accessible in different languages to provide critical information about COVID-19 and health resources. 
    • New York Immigration Coalition has a list of measures that the federal government, New York state, and New York City can take to ensure that immigrant communities stay safe and healthy. 
    • Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition has compiled immigration policy and enforcement updates for the state. 
    • MD/VA/DC: CAIR Coalition calling for “ICE and EOIR immediately allow legal service providers to remotely access and represent individuals in all detention centers where persons are held in ICE custody and in all courts that remain open during this national emergency.”
    • Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has a list of education and policy actions for state elected officials. 
    • Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) has a list of requests for the federal government, California state legislature, and Los Angeles County. 
    • Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) has launched the People’s Bailout, a platform of proposals to deal with COVID-19 and the projected economic aftermath.
    • Immigrant communities in Washington can use this resource list for immigrant communities from OneAmerica for resources related to Covid and the ensuing crisis.
    • In Wisconsin, Voces de la Fronteraa has compiled this list of resources for immigrant communities both in Wisconsin and nationally.
    • PLAN Nevada has compiled this list of resources for vulnerable communities in Nevada.
    • OneAmerica in Washington
  • Immigration court closures:
  • State legislation:
    •  Vermont adopted a resolution that urges the Fed Gov’t to refrain from arresting or detaining any individual based on immigration status in health care settings and suspension of the implementation of public charge

Other Policies to Consider

Child Care

Consumer Protection

  • Minnesota has legislation to curb price gouging laws during a state of emergency.
  • West Virginia passed a law to prohibit price increases of more than 10% on a wide range of consumer products.
  • Some states have price gouging legislation limited to a single type of product or service, such as the price of prescription drugs in bills from New Hampshire, New York, Minnesota and Rhode Island; the price of medical supplies in New York; the price of gasoline in Maryland; and the price of hotels and lodging in Michigan.

Criminal Justice

  • The Prison Policy Initiative has recommendations here.
  • Advocacy for releasing juveniles from detention here.
  • The Brennan Center has compiled “policy and advocacy responses detailing how different levels of the criminal justice system are responding to this public health crisis. This includes ways in which law enforcement, prosecutors, criminal courts, corrections agencies, and immigration agencies can better safeguard their communities and the broader public during this pandemic.”

Economic Development

  • Small business loans through the state (Florida, Massachusetts, New York) and the SBA
  • Bills in New Jersey and Ohio would require that every business interruption insurance policy include the coronavirus pandemic in its list of covered perils.
  • New Jersey legislation would provide grants during the emergency to small and medium-sized business and not-for-profit organizations.
  • MA Rep. proposes waiving liquor licenses and making sure coronavirus isn’t categorized as an “act of G-d” for insurance purposes.
  • Illinois offers tax deferments (2 months) and waives late fees/penalties

Judicial

  • A bill introduced in Louisiana would suspend certain provisions of the law which establish deadlines in legal proceedings.

Social Services

  • Expand income supports (SNAP, WIC, TANF) and remove work requirements.
  • Emergency funding for social services (food banks, homeless shelters, senior center, childcare, prisons, halfway houses, etc.)
  • Legislation in Ohio would delay eligibility redeterminations for food assistance, child care assistance, and TANF programs.

Hate Crime Prevention

  • Advocates have created guidelines to help address discrimination and racism around local health department communications, talking points around the coronavirus and public charge, and recommendations around storytelling.
  • Public Education and targeted support for LGTBQ and AAPI & indigenous communities
  • A resolution in Utah was passed that expresses solidarity and support for the Chinese people’s efforts to contain the virus and reiterates that the CDC advised to “ not to panic about the coronavirus and has warned against stereotyping people of Asian descent.”

Governance

  • A bill in Massachusetts would permit a town to postpone nonessential town meetings and reduce quorum requirements for essential meetings to permit communities to conduct their most pressing business with reduced numbers in attendance.
  • Legislation in Ohio would allow public bodies to attend meetings by teleconference or video conference, and any member joining this way would be considered in person, would be allowed to vote, and would count toward any quorum requirements.

Broadband Access

  • A New Jersey bill would urge the FCC to take temporary measures to make broadband accessible to those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Quarantined Individuals

  • A bill in the Minnesota House and Senate would provide a range of protections for a quarantined individual, including reasonable at home work accommodations, a stay of civil court actions, a waiver of negative credit reporting, and a waiver of federally guaranteed student loan obligations during a period of isolation or quarantine.

Miscellaneous


Messaging and Connecting with Constituents During Social Distancing

Messaging

  • Race Class Narrative National COVID-19 Messaging Document: In moments of crisis, new narratives, new policies and new social behaviors are established. In addition to acting with urgency around immediate needs, we must address the rhetoric that will undermine our long-term shared goals. Our message should be rooted in the values of interdependence, mutual solidarity, shared purpose and collective action. Use this messaging guide to inform all your communications.
  • Data for Progress: Memo: The Care Economy – Policies and Polling on Mitigating the Effects of the Coronavirus
  • The AFL-CIO is coordinating with government health organizations and professional experts to share timely and factual information here. Also, see this flyer about the virus and priorities for action to support workers. 
  • The SEIU healthcare division has developed a series of key messages for local leaders to use when responding to media inquiries or when developing content regarding COVID-19, including points on:
    • Preventing the spread of the virus; 
    • Keeping working people healthy; and
    • Why it’s past time for health care and paid sick time for all. 

Connecting with Constituents

Here are some ideas and examples to help you connect with your constituents remotely:

Reach out if we can help you plan or execute any of these ideas.


National Resources on Economic Impact


Overview of the Federal Response Package