Each day, policy makers across the country continue to wrestle with responding to the COVID crisis and economic recession. The dynamic nature of the virus requires creative leadership to keep individuals and families safe and healthy. With many Legislatures returning to session, policy makers are taking action to respond to the public health crisis and resulting economic impacts. Below is a snapshot of the most innovative action we saw in states over the last two weeks. These policies are focused in four priority areas:
- Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
- Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
Providing Accurate Information
- In Ohio, Governor DeWine has announced mandatory public face mask orders for seven counties.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new, data-driven guidance for reopening schools in New York State. Schools in a region can reopen if that region is in Phase IV of reopening and if its daily infection rate remains below 5 percent or lower using a 14-day average since unPAUSE was lifted. Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises above 9 percent, using a 7-day average. Additional information is expected in early August.
Testing & Contact Tracing
- Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed SB5011 into law, which enacts provisions related to testing and the collection and use of data relating to populations at high risk for COVID-19.
- In Maine, the Mills Administration announced that seven health care organizations will collectively launch nearly 20 “swab and send” COVID-19 test collection sites that will send samples to the Maine State Lab for testing, strengthening access to safe and accessible testing for residents, tourists, seasonal workers, and other visitors.
Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- In North Carolina, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an RFP for an initiative that will send up to 250 Community Health Workers to historically underserved areas with high COVID-19 caseloads. Community Health Workers will be responsible for connecting North Carolinians to medical and social support resources, including diagnostic testing, primary care, case management, nutrition assistance and mental health services.
- A bill passed by the Indiana Legislature will require health care facilities like hospitals, same-day surgery centers and urgent care clinics to post on their websites the costs of their most frequently used services by March 31, 2021. The bill also directs the Indiana Department of Insurance to begin creating an all-payer claims database.
- Wisconsin has announced additional efforts to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools, food processors, and businesses across the state. The Department of Emergency Management will begin shipping more than 2 million cloth face masks and more than 4,200 infrared thermometers to K-12 public, charter, and private schools throughout the state. The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is also helping to facilitate the delivery of approximately 60,000 masks to local food processors and businesses.
- Vermont Governor Phil Scott has announced that Vermont’s Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program will launch July 17, 2020. The grant program, first proposed by the Administration and amended by the Vermont Legislature, utilizes up to $275 million from the federal CARES funding to provide direct cash grants to eligible health care and human service providers who have lost revenue and/or observed increased expenses due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced she has directed $490 million of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds to be deposited into Iowa’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The deposit will ensure that eligible Iowans continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
- In Minnesota, the Walz-Flannagan Administration has submitted a $56.6 million Coronavirus Relief Fund proposal to a legislative advisory commission that would provide grants to family child care providers, child care centers, and certain eligible certified centers to support the increased costs and decreased revenue due to COVID-19. The Administration also announced a $100 million housing assistance program to help prevent evictions, prevent homelessness, and maintain housing stability for individuals and families impacted by COVID-19. This initiative is also funded with federal dollars through federal CARES Act resources.
- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that he will direct money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, established under the federal CARES Act, to support New Jersey food banks. The total funding amount will be $20 million, with $10 million distributed before August 2020 and an additional $10 million available before December 2020.
- New York has extended its special enrollment period through August 15, 2020, allowing uninsured people to find coverage on their state’s marketplace.
- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced more than $10.3 million in Affordable and Special Needs Housing loans for 14 projects across the Commonwealth, creating or preserving 790 affordable housing units for low-income and very low-income Virginians. The projects will support new construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations and will leverage over $181 million in additional federal, state, local, and private lending resources.
- In Washington, five insurance carriers have applied to offer public option plans in a majority of counties across the state. The first year of Cascade Care, the public option program, begins later this year with plans to start coverage on Jan. 1, 2021.
Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
- In Illinois, the Health Care Affordability Act (SB 1864) was signed into law. The measure will make it easier for people to access Medicaid; allows clinical trials to be covered by Medicaid; and directs agencies for health and human services to explore options to make health insurance more affordable for low-income and middle-income residents with a study due by February 15, 2021.
- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that $50 million in federal funds allocated through the CARES Act will be invested in Iowa’s mental health care system.
- Indiana legislators have repealed a law that requires a prescription to buy insulin. This access measure will be effective beginning January 1, 2021.