U.S. Federal Government Response to COVID-19
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the everyday lives of Americans living at home and abroad. Many now work from home, unemployed, or on the front lines in an essential business.
During challenging and uncertain times such as these, citizens regularly turn to the government for guidance, support, and information they can use to prepare and protect themselves.
The U.S. federal government’s initial response to the pandemic has undergone extensive criticism. But, in the last few weeks, the response from administrators and health experts has slowly become more unified and homogenous.
As we enter into the first week of April, what resources is the federal government offering to the public, and what action is it taking to slow the outbreak?
Presidential Guidelines for Americans
The White House has taken several measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including extending the guidelines until the end of April.
The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America shares the President’s 30-day plan to slow the spread and details some of the ways citizens can do their part, including:
- Adhering to directives issued by state and local officials
- Staying home if you or your children feel sick, then calling your doctor
- Keeping the whole household home and calling your doctor if a member tests positive
- Remaining home if you are a senior citizen, are immuno-compromised, or have an underlying health condition
- Working remotely if possible
- Following CDC guidelines if you work in a critical infrastructure industry
- Practicing social distancing by avoiding gatherings
- Not eating at bars and restaurants
- Avoiding nonessential travel and shopping
- Abstaining from visiting nursing homes or similar facilities
- Practicing proper hygiene as mandated by the CDC and WHO
In addition, the federal government has advised state authorities to close schools, gyms, bars, restaurants, and similar venues to reduce transmission.
State governments must address the needs of child care for first responders, as well as provide for the nutritional needs of children enrolled in free or reduced school lunches.
The current pandemic is the perfect opportunity for unscrupulous players to spread fake news easily.
But Coronavirus.gov and CDC.gov can mitigate the harmful consequences of false information.
These sites are crucial for Americans looking for accurate information to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Additionally, it is a trusted source of information with directives for those who might become sick, frequently asked questions, and the latest news about the outbreak.
Responses from Federal Departments
Every federal agency is developing a strategy to address this pandemic.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), every agency from Customers and Border Control (CBP) to FEMA to TSA are working together to create a Department-wide blanket response to detect and slow transmission.
These organizations’ efforts primarily concentrate on those traveling in and out of the U.S. who may unknowingly carry the coronavirus. The DHS lists the measures various agencies are implementing for air, land, and sea travel:
- Improved health screenings at 13 major US airports
- Continued identification and testing of those who have traveled to China, Iran, and some European countries
- Rerouting flights with travelers who recently came from the above countries.
Additionally, FEMA and the National Guard are working closely with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and other federal agencies to set up alternative health care facilities in areas struck hard by the pandemic.
One of the biggest criticisms of the administration’s handling of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic is the handling and distribution of testing kits.
When the CDC distributed COVID-19 tests to public health labs, it revealed several versions produced inconclusive results or were unreliable. These findings, along with the lack of kits, drastically slowed the testing process and contributed to the virus’s rapid spread.
On February 28th, the CDC broadened its testing criteria. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted the use of non-approved tests. The next day, the federal government admitted the errors in its handling of coronavirus testing and would take measures to fix it.
In early March, the federal government expanded testing by turning to commercial labs, causing more contention about its handling of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus Stimulus Package
Almost as soon as the coronavirus broke out in the U.S., the stock market nosedived, leaving countless Americans out of work and several industries on the brink of collapse.
The government responded by passing the biggest bailout in the country’s history. The $2 trillion package includes six parts:
- Direct payment for Americans
- $250 billion for unemployment insurance
- $350 billion for small businesses, with loan forgiveness for those that keep workers on payroll
- $500 billion for sectors hit the hardest, including $50 billion for the airline industry
- $130 billion for hospitals
- $150 in assistance for state and local governments
But what does this mean for ordinary Americans?
Based on tax returns from 2018, the amount varies according to the income of individuals or households.
- $1,200 for individuals who earned less than $75,000
- As much as $2,400 for married couples who earned less than $75,000, with an additional $500 for individual children
- Those who make more than $75,000 will see a smaller amount.
- Individuals who made more than $99,000 or couples making $198,000 will not receive aid.
According to Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, checks will issue around the second week of April.
The coronavirus has affected every part of American life. In the wake of the continuing spread of COVID-19, the U.S. federal government has issued several guidelines and online resources for individuals to protect themselves and prevent disease.
Additionally, federal departments are collaborating with various agencies to prevent further transmission and ensure the health and safety of the public.
The new stimulus package is the government’s most significant step to alleviating the economic impact. The direct payments will be a welcome relief for those facing uncertainty.
The unprecedented nature of the pandemic leaves more questions than answers not just for citizens, but the government as well.
- Aratani, Lauren. “$1,200 Stimulus Checks for All? What to Know about the US Coronavirus Bailout.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Mar. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/coronavirus-us-bailout-what-you-need-to-know.
- United States, Congress, “Coronavirus.gov.” Coronavirus.gov, Whitehouse.gov. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/03.16.20_coronavirus-guidance_8.5x11_315PM.pdf.
- “COVID-19 Testing.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_testing.
- Wallach, Philip A., and Justus Myers. “The Federal Government’s Coronavirus Actions and Failures.” Brookings, Brookings, 31 Mar. 2020, www.brookings.edu/research/the-federal-governments-coronavirus-actions-and-failures-timeline-and-themes/.
- “Whole-of-America Response to COVID-19.” Whole-of-America Response to COVID-19 | FEMA.gov, www.fema.gov/news-release/2020/03/29/whole-america-response-covid-19.