Coronavirus Response: Resources for State Legislators
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 email@example.com.
- The Basics
- Legislative Sessions
- Health Care
- Paid Leave and Sick Days
- Preventing Evictions, Utility Shut Offs, and Payment Deferment
- Democracy and Voting
- Reproductive Health Care
- Rural Communities and Agriculture
- Other Policies
- Messaging and Connecting with Constituents During Social Distancing
- National Resources on the Economic Impact
- Overview of the Federal Response Package
- CDC’s Coronavirus landing page (and in Spanish)
- Here is a list of coronavirus resources in multiple languages.
- NCSL’s Coronavirus Resources; including a state-by-state summary of state legislation related to COVID-19
- To see state declarations of emergency and information on state-specific resources and actions, see the National Governors Association webpage.
- From EPI, a summary of critical steps that state and local officials should consider
- The Kaiser Family Foundation has a website with updated information on the number of cases and deaths, as well as state-by-state policy action and data
- The Economic Opportunity Institute: State Government Must Do More to Protect Our Economy from the Virus
- U.S. Digital Response: As COVID-19 overwhelms the data, digital, and operational capacities of government, U.S. Digital Response connects states with highly qualified technical support (request assistance here).
- Lyft is offering assistance specifically for governments, nonprofits, and health care entities.
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.
- General Health Care Policy Options
- Support for Health Care Professionals
- Address health care professional shortages by changing licensing rules.
- Provide Emergency Child Care to Healthcare Personnel
- Insurance Regulations and Changes
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has developed a summary of regulatory updates from states in response to COVID-19.
- Special enrollment periods
- Telehealth Coverage
- Massachusetts Expands Telehealth Coverage for COVID-19
- Illinois will expand telemedicine coverage for residents with Medicaid as well as those who are privately insured.
- Drive-through testing centers:
- NELP Policy Brief provides six concrete policy options: Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance: Options for Policymakers to Mitigate Job Loss:
- Increase funding to meet higher UI demand
- Adopt Work-Sharing to Provide Alternative to Layoffs
- Waive Work-Search and Waiting Week Requirements
- Clarify Good Cause to Quit
- Reform Disaster Unemployment Insurance
- Make sure those eligible receive UI benefits
- Note that increased eligibility will require additional administrative capacities.
- Example: MI Gov. Gretchen Whitmer temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits:
- Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
- Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
- First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.
- Webinar Recording: Unemployment Insurance Reforms Needed to Address the Current Crisis and Permanently Fill the Gaps (March 24, EARN)
- Webinar Recording: State Responses to COVID-19 and Economic Downturn (March 19, EARN)
Paid Leave and Sick Days
- From the National Women’s Law Center:
- Eliminate the exemption for large employers and ensuring that nonprofits can be reimbursed for emergency benefits—and enact forward-looking provisions to ensure that these critical benefits are available to everyone outside of the circumstances of a public health emergency
- From A Better Balance:
- Paid Sick Time During a Public Health Emergency: Key Policy Elements to Include in an Emergency Paid Sick Time Bill: A 2-page comprehensive policy guide.
- An obvious policy fix is to allow workers to use earned sick leave when a workplace or a child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency.
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)
- Twelve states already require paid sick leave; see here for more information.
- Know Your Rights: State and Local Paid Sick Time Laws
- Comparison chart of all of the paid sick time laws on the books
- A map of all of the local and state laws in effect;
- And a list of the 18 paid sick time laws that explicitly cover time off due to closure of a place of business or school due to a public health emergency.
- Fact sheets here.
- 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
- Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) directed water, electric, and natural gas utilities to not only suspend utility shut offs, but additionally make reasonable attempts to reconnect service to an occupied dwelling that has been disconnected.
- CA Executive Order authorizes local governments to halt evictions related to the pandemic, slow foreclosures and protect against utility shutoffs.
- Emergency order from NH prohibiting utility shutoffs.
Democracy and Voting
- 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
- COVID-19 poses an incredible threat to voter access and participation in our elections and requires a multi-pronged, well-funded solution. To meet this challenge, states must rapidly ensure that voting systems are safe, resilient, and flexible. Democracy advocates across the country are uniting behind the below areas of reform to protect our democracy during the pandemic:
- Expanded voter registration, including online registration, same-day registration, and automatic registration;
- Expanded mail voting, including pre-paid postage and fair and consistent ballot verification and cure processes;
- Expanded early voting and in-person voting opportunities;
- Reforms to polling station locations, setups, and sanitation protocols (following CDC guidelines); and
- Robust public education.
- For a detailed overview of these policy recommendations see the following resources from SiX’s national partners:
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: Voting Rights Coalition Letter: Protect Voting Rights and Public Safety in Response to COVID-19
- Brennan Center for Justice: How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus and Estimated Costs of Covid-19 Election Resiliency Measures
- Center for American Progress: Election Contingency Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Campaign Legal Center: Three Measures to Ensure Ballot Access During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Fair Fight Action Fund: Protecting Our Democracy Amid COVID-19
- Marc Elias: Four Pillars to Safeguard Voting Rights with Vote by Mail
- For technical recommendations on expanded vote by mail, check out the National Vote at Home Institute’s extensive reference library and Scale-Up Roadmap to Secure the 2020 Election. This article from Washington Monthly outlines Utah’s path to scaling vote by mail. SiX’s 2018 Modern and Secure Elections Playbook also includes policy guidance and legislative language on vote by mail systems.
- For additional resources, see the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page, National Association of Secretaries of State’s (NASS) Issue Briefing: Election Emergencies & COVID-19, and NCSL’s COVID-19 and Elections page.
- 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.
- States and localities are addressing low-income student food insecurity, by setting up food distribution centers in schools, and the state paying for meals for kids who would get free or reduced lunch. Legislation in New Jersey would provide school meals (up to 3 school days’ worth per delivery) or meal vouchers.
- States have modified school laws to allow for less than the required days of school and to not penalize schools by reducing state aid. For example, a law passed in California and introduced legislation in New York would ensure the schools that close in response to COVID-19 will not be financially penalized in the apportionment of state aid. And a bill in the Pennsylvania State House would waive the mandatory minimum days of school required for the school year.
- States have extended statewide assessment test deadlines. See California and Louisiana.
- States are appropriating funds to schools for extra cleaning: California allocates $100M and an introduced bill in New Jersey would appropriate $20M.
- Minnesota House and Senate and Washington offer financial support for school employees.
- States have also introduced legislation to support non-traditional public schools, such as those that serve students with disabilities, the deaf, or the blind as in New York
- See Which States Have Cancelled Spring Tests Because of Coronavirus
- NEA Today: Schools and Coronavirus:What You Should Know
- AFT: https://www.aft.org/coronavirus; sharemylesson.com/coronavirus
- States are working to ensure teachers are paid during the coronavirus crisis. The Pennsylvania State House moved a bill to ensure teachers are still paid for the school year despite school closures, and a newly enacted bill in Mississippi allows local school boards to grant school district employees administrative leave with pay.
Rural Communities and 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.
- National Rural Health Association Covid-19 Communications Toolkit Sign up to access social media templates, news releases, radio scripts and CDC facts to get critical information out to rural constituents.
- Here is a list of resources for rural communities on the Oregon Office of Rural Health. These resources are certainly applicable to other states.
- Here is a map of ICU beds across the country. Note that many rural communities are without.
- Template in English & Spanish for connecting with neighbors and building contact lists
- Survey system that local nonprofit is using to coordinate community members’ needs and match them with volunteers
- Rural Broadband: This small internet company in rural Oregon is working to set up hotspots around the state. Contact them and they may be able to help problem-solve broadband in your rural district.
- Categorize Farmers Markets as Essential Services – Multiple officials have addressed this at a state level and categorized farmers’ markets with grocery stores, finding that they are essential services and can continue functioning: California , Connecticut Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Resources for Farmers in Your District
- Here is some guidance from Oregon State University’s Small Farm Program for producers who sell farm direct during this outbreak. Purdue released guidance as well and here are some additional resources from USDA.
- As farm-direct farmers are forced to find new marketing opportunities, here are some resources to support them:
- Barn2Door https://www.barn2door.com/
- Cropolis https://cropolis.co/
- Farmigo https://www.farmigo.com/
- Food4aAll https://www.food4all.com/sell-food-online-csa-software/
- Harvie https://www.harvie.farm/
- Local Food Marketplace https://home.localfoodmarketplace.com/
- Local Line https://site.localline.ca/
- Shopify https://www.shopify.com/
- 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.
- 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
- Provide Emergency Child Care to Healthcare Personnel
- Policy Memo from Center for American Progress
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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
- A bill introduced in Louisiana would suspend certain provisions of the law which establish deadlines in legal proceedings.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- State budget line item to cover raises for healthcare professionals
- Furlough nonviolent prisoners
- Tolls require the easy/drive-thru pass and people will have to pay later online (no more coins or cash)
- Special grocery shopping hours for older adults (Illinois)
- MN + VT: Minnesota and Vermont Just Classified Grocery Clerks as Emergency Workers
- Child care help for emergency workers
- Transportation standards and additional resources to help with emergency supplies and deliveries
- Lyft has offered their ride sharing services to governments for assistance in delivering medical supplies and meals and transporting patients, and are looking to support in other ways. You can request services from them through this form.
Messaging and Connecting with Constituents During Social Distancing
- 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:
- Host a COVID-19 Facebook Live Town Hall or host a COVID-19 Twitter Town Hall
- Host a Town Hall on a web video platform such as Zoom or Skype
- Host a Telephone Town Hall
- Send frequent E-newsletters with updates and resources
- Host Virtual Coffee Hours (WA example)
- Post informative graphics (MN example)
- Keep an updated and easily accessible document with relevant information (MI example)
- Connect with your constituents in a way that is personal to you (IL example) and keep your previously planned events, just change the location (IL example).
Reach out if we can help you plan or execute any of these ideas.
National Resources on Economic Impact
- Amid COVID-19 outbreak, the workers who need paid sick days the most have the least goes into more detail on the share of workers within industries that have sick days, and quantifies how many sick days they typically have.
- Economic policy and COVID-19—Mitigate harm and plan for the future: A list of considerations for policymakers discusses the country’s short- and long-term needs for dealing with the coronavirus and future health emergencies.
- Getting serious about the economic response to COVID-19 goes into more detail on how lawmakers should tailor their immediate response to the current crisis.
- Payroll cuts vs. employer tax credits: https://www.epi.org/blog/
- EPI: A progressive strategy for addressing the next recession must include a deliberate, strategic focus on states and localities
- CBPP: Coronavirus Response Should Include Urgent Fiscal Policy Measures to Address Financial Hardship, Stave Off a Severe Recession
Overview of the Federal Response Package
- CBPP: How Will States and Localities Divide the Fiscal Relief in the Coronavirus Relief Fund?
- NCSL’s summary COVID-19 Stimulus Bill: What It Means for States details highlights of the package and an overview of the $150 billion to states, territories, local and tribal governments.
- EPI applauds crucial provisions in the CARES Act, but its glaring flaws mean that more is needed
- CBPP: CARES Act Includes Essential Measures to Respond to Public Health, Economic Crises, But More Will Be Needed
- Read this summary from Americans for Tax Fairness with a helpful chart to break down the data here.
- FERN’s AG Reader: Senate and Trump administration negotiators agreed on a $15.5 billion increase in SNAP funding
- NY Times FAQ on the bill
- SiX: The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Communities & Local Agriculture Talking Points
- On the $12 billion in funding for HUD programs: NLIHC
- To maintain secure elections, advocates had requested $4 billion in funding to expand vote by mail, absentee voting, and crucial elections protections to ensure states can carry out fair elections this year. The bill allocates just $400 million.