The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been profoundly personal. The virus itself endangers individual health and wellbeing, but as the pandemic has unfolded, its impact on Americans’ lives has extended beyond physical health to the day-to-day realities of working, raising families, and building up communities and relationships. Parents have had to manage their children’s education from home, while dealing with changes at work. Teachers have pivoted to distance learning. Economic lockdowns have put many out of work and created uncertainty for small business owners and job creators.
Responding to the pandemic has required addressing more than healthcare alone. And because each state’s economy, systems, and needs are unique, state-based and community-drive solutions have yielded the most direct, positive support for Americans during this time. In seeking practical, fast-acting solutions, states have found concrete ideas in SPN’s 50-state Network of independent state think tanks, leading to reforms and litigation efforts that are saving both the lives and livelihoods of Americans across the country.
Through the CARES Act, federal lawmakers sent millions in federal funding to states and local governments to help them weather the pandemic. State think tanks have responded to these legislative relief packages to ensure lawmakers at the federal level are giving states enough flexibility to spend the funds in ways that truly meet the needs of their communities.
Empowering states’ financial response to the pandemic
On April 13, 2020, John Locke and Platte, along with 29 other state think tanks, sent a letter to Congress asking for flexibility in how state and local governments spend federal relief funds. The group encouraged Congress to allow states to use the money to offset lost local tax revenue or provide one-time tax relief to revive local economies. Doing so would help states address the imminent budget crisis and prevent tax increases on already struggling Americans. The letter resulted in Congress developing legislation based on the Network’s recommendations.
Giving families education options and support
Congressional action can give states the flexibility and opportunity to address these issues and give families the education options they need. Eighteen state think tanks sent a letter to Congress with policy recommendations to ensure all students have access to a quality education. See their recommendations here.