On January 21, the Biden administration released its National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, which provides the first glimpse of what counties can expect from the new administration’s response to the pandemic. The National Strategy acknowledges the integral role that local governments play in eradicating the virus and addressing the pandemic’s economic fallout.
The National Strategy centers around seven goals:
- Restore trust with the American people.
- Mount a safe, effective and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
- Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, health care workforce and clear public health standards.
- Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act (DPA).
- Safely reopen schools, business and travel while protecting workers.
- Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
- Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.
Several of these goals can only be achieved at the county level and nearly all of them emphasize how integral local governments are to a successful pandemic response strategy. The National Strategy aims to provide counties with the resources and funding necessary for ensuring the health and economic wellbeing of their residents. It seeks to provide this support in several ways, including by expanding and increasing access to the data necessary for county leaders to make informed decisions regarding the reopening of schools and businesses, the disparities in COVID-19 infections and health outcomes and the execution of successful local vaccination campaigns.
The National Strategy also proposes financial relief for local governments at a time when county budgets are severely strained. It would allow local governments to reimburse vaccination administration and other expenses through the FEMA disaster relief fund, seek to increase funding for community health centers and safety net institutions and provide additional funding for local vaccination programs. As part of both the National Strategy and the outline for a national COVID-19 vaccine strategy, the Biden administration will also work with Congress to expand the Federal Medicaid Assistance Parentage (FMAP) to 100 percent for vaccinations of Medicaid enrollees, which will help counties ensure that all their residents are able be vaccinated.
The administration intends to immediately expand emergency relief by giving local governments the resources they need. This includes invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of vaccines, tests, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies as well as instructing federal agencies to strengthen the supply chain in any way they can. Further, President Biden has directed FEMA to fully reimburse states for the cost of national Guard personnel and emergency supplies.
A key theme of the National Strategy is the importance of partnering with local governments. Counties are critical to the success of any pandemic response, and the Biden administration’s plan recognizes that and commits to supporting local governments. NACo will work with the Biden administration, while calling on Congress to assist with ensuring there is fiscal support for the implementation of the National Strategy in future COVID-19 legislation.
- Long-form version of the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness
- NACo Legislative Analysis of the American Rescue Plan
- NACo COVID-19 Resource Hub