State Policy Network
States adopt policies to help small businesses rebuild after the coronavirus

“There were a lot of rules, and the rules evolved,” stressed Jeff Solari, owner of Kosta’s Restaurant in Maine. It was almost like we had to watch the updates every day to see what the next rules were going to be.”

The Maine Policy Institute interviewed Mr. Solari as part of a video series that highlights the plight of small businesses throughout the pandemic. Mr. Solari highlighted the challenges he faced as a business owner during the coronavirus, and in particular, how difficult it is to comply with fluctuating public health guidelines.

He added: “We created the special menus, we put up plexiglass around booths—the list is a mile long of the things we had to spend money on. It’s hard to build a business plan around operating at 25 or 50 percent.”

More than a year into the pandemic, small business owners like Mr. Solari are still reeling from its effects. These Americans need relief and policies that make it easier for them to grow and expand.

In addition to shielding businesses from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits and providing tax cuts, states across the country are enacting other policies that help businesses rebuild post-pandemic. A network of state policy organizations is encouraging state lawmakers to pass these policies so Americans can grow their business, create meaningful jobs, and serve their communities. From legalizing to-go cocktails in Oregon to allowing barbers to work from their van in South Carolina, states are helping the business community recover after COVID-19.

To-go cocktails, sales tax holidays, mobile barbers, and reduced regulations: Local solutions that help small businesses get back on their feet


Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that lets local leaders waive the costs of complying with operational regulations to provide some relief to businesses affected by the pandemic. The Illinois Policy Institute noted that while the measure will not make up for the devastating impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, any relief for businesses is welcome.


The Massachusetts Governor advanced the Pioneer Institute’s recommendation to establish a two-month sales tax holiday. Pioneer explained in a March 2020 study that a longer sales tax holiday will give retailers struggling during the pandemic a much-needed cash boost. 


The Missouri Legislature passed a bill that will permanently allow restaurants to serve to-go cocktails. The Show-Me Institute celebrated this win and noted it will allow restaurants more freedom to do business and please customers as they see fit.


Thanks to The Buckeye Institute, Ohio restaurants can permanently offer alcohol on their carryout and delivery menus. This was a recommendation Buckeye made in their “Policy Solutions for the Pandemic” report.


Cascade Policy Institute began arguing in 2020 that restaurants hit hard by the pandemic should be allowed to sell cocktails to-go to help struggling businesses survive.

Cocktails to-go were legalized temporarily in a December 2020 emergency session of the Oregon Legislature. This law was originally set to sunset 60 days after end of the governor’s state of emergency. However, Cascade analysts wrote that Oregonians should have the freedom to purchase cocktails to-go after the emergency orders expired.

Senate Bill 317, passed and signed by the Oregon Governor in the 2021 regular legislative session, did just this. This bill recognizes that Oregonians are capable of safely enjoying cocktails to-go with their take-out orders even after pandemic restrictions are eased and restaurants open back up to full capacity.

South Carolina

South Carolina passed a law that enables licensed barbers to apply for a license to operate out of a mobile unit, bringing their services to wherever they are needed. The Palmetto Promise Institute played a role in this win and noted that as the coronavirus continues to take its toll on the job market, they are excited to see South Carolina open up new avenues for jobs and small businesses in this industry.

In addition, the Palmetto State passed a law that expanded upon coronavirus emergency measures to create new venues for alcohol sales. The new law allows wineries to expand to more tasting rooms around the state and allows the wineries to make direct sales.


Tennessee passed a bill that stops local governments from regulating online marketplaces such as Uber, Turo, Etsy, Handy, and other online platforms. Thanks to the efforts of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Tennessee is the first state in the country to pass a law like this. Beacon celebrated this milestone and noted preempting local governments from imposing a hodgepodge of local regulations on online marketplaces will allow innovation to flourish. 


Utah passed a law that expanded who may be considered an independent contractor in the gig economy, making it easier to earn a living in the state. As a result of this new law, services such as providing captioning services, transcribing, and interpreting are all jobs that will now be qualified as independent contractors. Libertas Institute played a key role in getting this win across the finish line, and SPN provided a grant to Libertas to work on this issue.

Policy Issues: Economy, Jobs
Organization: State Policy Network