State and federal policy responses to the COVID-19 virus

This blog post will be regularly updated to capture key policy responses to the COVID-19 virus. (Last updated 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 24)

Reports from Budget & Tax Center Staff

This post summarizes steps taken thus far at both the federal and state levels. Scroll down to see a list of steps taken so far, or click on the following links to bring you directly to a specific section:

COVID-19 provides a sobering reminder of how much we need effective and well-resourced governance at the state and federal levels. Particularly in times of crisis, we need an infrastructure that delivers a coordinated, seamless response and reaches each and every person in the community.

The coming months will test federal and state leaders’ ability to blunt the impacts of this global pandemic and contain the harm to the health, well-being, and economic security of people.

Decades of tax cuts have left us vulnerable to a moment like this. Conservative leaders in Raleigh and Washington have given huge tax breaks to rich people and multinational corporations instead of building the systems we need to respond with a coordinated and collective set of programs.

Years of policies that attacked the very institutions that are so critical now have made the response more fragmented and challenged.  Our public health agencies are under-resourced for the growing complexities and services needed in the face of this new coronavirus pandemic coming on top of a very bad flu season. Our public schools haven’t received adequate resources to provide classroom materials and technology in school, let alone outside of it, and many school personnel are worried about their ability to make ends meet in this time. Indeed, many workers will struggle to make ends meet if their hours are scaled back, they get sick, or they lose their jobs because our policy choices have failed to provide access to affordable health care, paid sick days, and a strengthened unemployment system.

COVID-19 is likely going to have an even broader economic impact going forward and could push the United States into a full-blown recession.  Strengthening our programs that can automatically stabilize the economy by helping people make ends meet is critical, as will be aid for states to maintain balanced budgets without dramatic cuts to programs and services needed now.

In short, North Carolina will need a robust policy response at the state and federal level.

HEALTH:  Addressing public health needs and the health care of people

  • Federal
    • President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in order to direct private firms to produce COVID-19 related crucial goods.
    • R. 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed by the President. This bill increases federal funding to states for Medicaid, which would mean $900 million for North Carolina to meet health care needs. Other provisions provide supports to workers and people across the country to contain the ripple effects of this public health crisis from exponentially increasing hunger and income loss.
    • Federal state of emergency declared
      • $50 billion in funding made available to support containment and mitigation efforts of states and territories.
      • Broad authority given to Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement waivers of federal regulations and program requirements to support virus suppression efforts-medical licensure flexibility and telehealth response expansion.
      • Public private partnership to make tests available, including drive-thru option.
      • Waive student loan interest until further notice.
      • Storing crude oil
    • Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (L. 116-123) was the first, modest response to COVID-19 and provides funding for public health agencies, research into a vaccine and small business loans.

FOOD:  Ensuring access and adequacy of food assistance

EDUCATION: Providing continuity in the education and care of children and students

LOST INCOME: Protecting workers and small, local businesses from lost income and economic hardship

HOUSING:  Stabilizing Housing



ECONOMY:  Advancing supports to stabilize the economy

The Budget & Tax Center is a project of the NC Justice Center. If you know of a policy change that has been implemented or is being pursued to address COVID-19 in North Carolina please email Heba Atwa at [email protected] 

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