State Legislative Response to COVID-19


With the outbreak of COVID-19, both governors and state legislatures have been the true “boots on the ground” leading their respective state’s response to COVID-19. The spread of the virus across all 50 states, as we have all now seen, has had a dramatic effect on the workplace, and our daily lives.

The growing number of COVID-19 cases across the country has caused state governors and legislatures to come to grips with some of the most difficult personal and legislative challenges in recent history-and each state is fervently working towards bringing this outbreak to a halt. 


While COVID-19 has impacted all states in the U.S., each state continues to grapple with the varying degrees of outbreak severity. Thus, the somewhat varied responses from each governor, though similar in principle, is uniquely catered to their respective state. To curb the growing wave of COVID-19 cases, many of the governors across the U.S. have taken a series of broad measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, including:

  • All 50 states have declared state emergency/public health emergency declarations,
  • All 50 states have declared statewide, or localized school closures,
  • 49 states have instituted mandatory limits on gatherings and ‘stay at home’ orders, with 1 strongly recommending limitations,

Example - Massachusetts order is for the ages 7+, guidance for all others; Oklahoma’s order is for vulnerable populations only and includes a 10 person limit to mass gatherings for all others;  Pennsylvania’s order is for 22 counties; Nebraska limits are for 14 counties; Kentucky, Utah and Wyoming have issued stay at home guidance; Florida has issued a stay at home order for south-east Florida, and stay at home guidance for age 65+.

  • 47 states have activated their National Guard to assist in responding to the crisis,
  • All 50 states have instituted recommended, or mandatory closures of non-essential businesses,
  • 28 states have been approved or have requested major disaster declarations.

To learn more about actions taken by your respective state’s governor in response to the coronavirus outbreak, please click here and then scroll and click on your respective state.

One important area of response that governors have focused on is the scarcity of essential medical equipment (masks, ventilators, etc.), testing kits, and even the availability of medical staff. At a time of year where flu-season is especially high, an already burdened health care system has been operating at high-levels of capacity. Across the country, governors have begun adopting various measures to increase access to healthcare services.

Governors are still calling for the President to make broader usage on the Defense Production Act (DPA).  Recently, the Trump administration leaned into using the DPA to gain cooperation from certain companies in the production of ventilators.  The President has also activated the National Guard in New York, California, Michigan and Washington state to support efforts in combating COVID-19.  The administration has also ordered additional resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stockpile and naval hospital ship assets to California and New York City to support the local medical emergency systems by taking non-COVID related patients.  However, certain vital equipment to protect medical service personnel and support the needs of infected individuals remains woefully in short supply in some locales.   

Testing also remains a challenge for many states. In New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, governors adopted measures that allow for “drive-thru” testing sites. Many governors have also signed executive orders enabling the expansion of telehealth & telemedicinal services in their states In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order expanding telemedicine services to include Medicaid beneficiaries.   Thirty-one states now have “stay at home” mandates in place and Florida and Texas have instituted quarantine requirements on individuals arriving from several “hot spots” in the country.  

State Legislatures:

A growing number of state legislatures have proposed or enacted legislation in direct response to the outbreak of COVID-19. For a sampling of the hundreds of legislative proposals state legislatures are considering in combatting the virus (and its effect on the state’s economy and fiscal condition), click on the photo below and find your state.









Source: The National Conference of State Legislatures

One of the most important roles legislatures have played in this effort has been to provide much-needed funding and appropriations to where it’s needed the most. States like Utah have added provisions to larger appropriations bills, authorizing a one-time lump sum increase funding to the various state agencies responding to the outbreak. Other states have been more targeted in their appropriations measures such as Vermont, where the state legislature appropriated monies solely for the purposes of training new emergency medical personnel.

Another important role the state legislatures have played is to act as a “resource” center for its constituents. State legislatures across the country, such as in Iowa or Maryland, have been closely involved in the creation, and maintenance of important resources for their residents. In these times of confusion and uncertainty, maintaining a centralized hub for individuals has been an important tool in the dissemination of resources and information across states.

As we have seen, state government responses to the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to be fluid and ever-changing. SHRM’s Government Affairs Team will continue to monitor how the COVID-19 outbreak impacts states across the country. Please share feedback on your experience managing through COVID-19 by completing this survey.

Additional COVID-19 Resources

Learn more about the response to COVID-19 across both State and Federal Governments by reviewing SHRM’s COVID-19 Government Resource page. On this page, you can also find a list of all recent SHRM webcasts as well as register for upcoming webcasts.

Last Friday, March 27th, at 2:00pm EST, SHRM hosted a webcast with Tracy Billows and Joshua Seidman, attorneys at Seyfarth Shaw, who provided guidance about the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act and impacts to family leave and paid sick time requirements. The webcast was at capacity with over 25,000 participants.  In case you missed or need to hear it again, you can review it at the following link: Families First Coronavirus Response Act – Making Sense of the Paid Leave Mandates.


Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 10:30am


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: