State Policy Network
COVID-19 Federal Response Tracker

As our nation weathers the coronavirus public health crisis, SPN is striving to keep the Network of independent think tanks informed about how federal actions affect their states. By providing updates on the federal government’s actions to combat this crisis, we hope to synthesize and share helpful information that empowers states to be responsive to the needs of their communities.

Testing & Treatment

Changes from the federal level address COVID-19 testing needs by allowing labs, other than the CDC, to develop and authorize tests. Additionally, this federal action requires insurance to cover testing. There are still barriers to manufacturing since several key components of the test are in short supply, and protective gear for lab workers is in short supply.

Federal Action

What States Can Do


Access to Healthcare

Federal changes are permitting the temporary waiving of many regulations in order to grant states and hospitals more flexibility to meet growing healthcare needs. To date, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved forty-five 1135 waivers from states, giving them additional flexibility with Medicaid, Medicare, and hospital regulations during a national emergency. As part of these waivers, states can request to expand telemedicine, suspend in-state license requirements, and waive hospital stay protocol.

Many governors are using executive orders to expand these temporary deregulations to all providers in their states. SPN has a list of healthcare policy recommendations to help address this crisis, and think tanks are welcome to share it with state policymakers.

1. Increasing hospital bed capacity

The CARES Act included $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. Hospitals and other providers need to apply for the funds directly from the Department of Health and Human Services, and these funds can be used for COVID-19 expenses, such as constructing temporary structures and purchasing medical supplies.

CMS also waived regulations on where hospitals can house patients, allowing them to transfer patients and provide care in alternate facilities, such as dorms, hotels, community centers, and temporary tents.

What States Can Do

2. Expanding telemedicine and remote care

What States Can Do

3. Suspending licensure requirements for out-of-state providers

This action will increase the number of medical professionals available to respond to the crisis. Since COVID-19 is impacting areas of the country at different rates, healthcare needs are more acute in areas such as Washington, California, and New York. Medical professionals licensed in other states will have the flexibility to offer their services—and get paid—in states that need their help the most.

What States Can Do:

4. Fast track Medicaid and Medicare Part B’s approval of providers

More healthcare providers are needed to meet increasing patient needs. It can take a long time for these healthcare providers to be approved to bill to Medicaid and Medicare. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has set up a toll-free hotline to expedite approval and eliminate some of the screening requirements for providers and medical suppliers to submit bills to Medicare Part B.


Protective Equipment

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the country has only 1% of the N-95 masks that healthcare workers need in a widespread pandemic. Lack of personal protective equipment impacts all areas of the healthcare sector dealing with the virus. The actions from federal policymakers attempt to provide more flexibility in the types of masks providers can wear and protect companies from liability so they are encouraged to manufacture more masks.

Federal Action:

What States Can Do:


Unemployment Benefits

With some economists forecasting up to 32% unemployment, states need to be ready for a massive increase in unemployment claims. Congress expanded benefits and appropriated additional funds to cover the expansion and assist workers during this tough time. Since these funds are temporary, states should prepare for proposals for continue to the enhanced benefits after funding ends.

Expanded unemployment benefits include:

In addition to covering the expanded benefits, Congress appropriated funds for:


K-12 Education

With so many state-wide school closures educators, administrators, and parents scrambling. The federal government is allowing states to waive federally mandated testing and performance assessments. The CARES Act included approximately $13.5 billion in the Education Stabilization Fund to be distributed based on Title I allocations (lower-income states getting more money). After that, the Act distributes funds equitably to all schools, including private schools, based on student population. The funds can be used for a wide array of COVID-19 expenses, including distance learning.

Governors can request additional funds from the Department of Education’s $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Stabilization Fund.

What States Can Do:


Additional Support for State and Local Programs

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act not only provided direct funding to individuals and companies, it also provided funding to states. The following are a few of the larger appropriations that address fiscal and social needs.

Appropriations Include:

What States Can Do:

State and other governmental entities need to apply for these funds. Policy makers need to ensure programs that are funded through these grants are temporary and will not cause budget problems in the future.

Categories: State News
Policy Issues: Healthcare
Organization: State Policy Network