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Huberfeld N, Gordon SH, Jones DK. Federalism Complicates the Response to the COVID-19 Health and Economic Crisis: What Can Be Done?. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 2020 Dec 1; 45(6):951-965.
Federalism has complicated the US response to the novel coronavirus. States' actions to address the pandemic have varied widely, and federal and state officials have provided conflicting messages. This fragmented approach has surely cost time and lives. Federalism will shape the long-term health and economic impacts of COVID-19, including plans for the future, for at least two reasons: First, federalism exacerbates inequities, as some states have a history of underinvesting in social programs, especially in certain communities. Second, many of the states with the deepest needs are poorly equipped to respond to emergencies due to low taxes and distrust of government, leading to inadequate infrastructure. These dynamics are not new, but they have been laid bare by this crisis. What can policy makers do to address the inequities in health and economic outcomes that federalism intensifies? The first section of this article offers a case study of the Mississippi Delta to illustrate the role of federalism in perpetuating the connection between place, health, and economics. The second section examines challenges that safety net programs will face when moving beyond the acute phase of COVID-19. The final section explores near-, middle-, and long-term policy options to mitigate federalism's harmful side effects.