What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/30
US: States made it harder to get jobless benefits. Now that’s hard to undo.
The state unemployment systems that were supposed to help millions of jobless workers were full of boxes to check and mandates to meet that couldn’t possibly apply in a pandemic.
MS: Legislative leaders plan to strip Mississippi governor of CARES Act spending authority
Mississippi leaders are discussing plans to return to the Capitol to consider legislation that would keep Republican Gov. Tate Reeves from having sole spending authority over the $1.25 billion coronavirus stimulus windfall from the federal government.
KS: Kansas governor to sign new emergency declaration
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly plans to issue a new emergency declaration that will extend her enhanced powers to direct Kansas’s pandemic response.
MI: Governor, lawmakers battle over Michigan reopening
While the battle against the coronavirus is far from over, a debate is raging in Michigan over plans to reopen the state for business. Republicans want to speed up reopening plans but need to strike a deal with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
PA: Pennsylvania has an online form to report social-distancing violators. Far-right trolls are spamming it.
Far-right trolls communicating on message boards are trying to shut down a Pennsylvania form intended for the public to report businesses shirking the government’s social-distancing orders.
MA: Masks distributed by Massachusetts were deficient, tests show, sparking concerns among police
Massachusetts, which has been accumulating respirator masks however it can amid a national shortage and distributing them to people who most need them, last week began notifying police departments, nursing homes and other recipients that recent tests revealed that some of the masks provide little protection.
MD: Maryland governor announces universal testing at nursing homes after hundreds of deaths
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said the testing will include all staff and residents at Maryland nursing homes and assisted living facilities, whether they display symptoms or not. Hogan also is mandating that nursing homes accept the assistance of the state’s so-called strike teams, which have provided medical help to more than 80 facilities.
OK: Oklahoma employment security commission sees spike in identity theft
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has identified more than 3,800 fictitious claims since mid-March as it works with residents out of work who also are victims of identity theft.
NM: Republicans clash with New Mexico governor on reopening business
New Mexico House Republicans are calling on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to ease public health restrictions in counties that are less affected by the novel coronavirus, a notion the governor’s office rejected as premature. Four lightly populated counties have seen no cases.
IL: Illinois to require residents to wear masks in public
Illinois residents will soon be required to cover their faces in most public spaces as part of an amended stay-at-home order, which begins May 1 and continues through May 30.
MN: Minnesota set to pass economic relief for coronavirus
The GOP-led Minnesota Senate is poised to clear a coronavirus relief package amid partisan differences over tax breaks for individuals and businesses. The Republican plan would delay some state tax payments due in the months ahead and waive penalties, deferring about $1 billion in revenue.
WI: Wisconsin suspends fees, penalties for missed rent during coronavirus emergency
As the coronavirus pandemic enters its third month, Wisconsin consumer protection officials have banned late fees and penalties for missed rent payments. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Affairs announced that it has approved an emergency rule prohibiting landlords from charging late fees for 90 days.
NJ: New Jersey parks, golf courses to reopen
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced he’s reopening state parks and allowing county parks and golf courses in New Jersey to operate again under restrictions starting Saturday morning, weeks after he made the controversial decision to close them during the pandemic.
MO: Missouri House OKs spending plan
The Missouri House approved a budget reflecting plummeting tax revenue tied to the spread of a deadly virus. The $30 billion plan contains about $700 million less than what Republican Gov. Mike Parson had sought in January.
IA: Iowa governor defends reopening
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds defended her decision to loosen some restrictions on businesses and religious gatherings despite a warning from researchers at the University of Iowa that doing so could lead to a second wave of cases.
OH: Ohio reports 276 coronavirus deaths in long-term-care facilities since April 15
A total of 276 people died in Ohio’s long-term-care facilities in just the past two weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
AK: Toll on Alaska economy drags on
Notices that companies must file with the state of Alaska in the event of mass layoffs provide an indication of the severe toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many Alaska businesses, including the high-paying oil and gas sector. More than 70,000 people have filed new jobless claims over six weeks, about 22% of the state workforce.
FL: Florida city offers walkup testing for those without cars
More than a month after the first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opened in Miami-Dade County, the county offered walkup testing for the first time at a church parking lot. As public spaces start to open, experts say more testing is still necessary.
TX: Texas sending workers back to work without child care
Restaurant, retail and movie theater workers in Texas may be called back to work as soon as Friday. But licensed child care remains open only for children of "essential" workers.
NY: New York governor assails ‘political brawl’ over federal aid to states
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says federal aid is critical to pay New York teachers, firefighters, health care workers and police officers. Cuomo describes New York’s fiscal situation as dire but hasn’t said whether there will be furloughs or layoffs of state workers.
MD: Maryland’s Eastern Shore traces outbreak to poultry plant workers
Maryland officials identified a coronavirus outbreak among the state’s poultry workers, sounding warnings about potential disruptions to the food supply chain as concerns about meat shortages loom large across the country.
WY: Governor to allow Wyoming residents to camp in parks
Wyoming state parks have been open for day-use activities, but not overnight. When the restriction is lifted, Wyoming residents will be allowed to camp in state parks.
AL: Alabama Dem leader: Too soon to pass budget
Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, a Democrat, said lawmakers don’t yet know enough about the scope and duration of the coronavirus pandemic to pass state budgets over the next three weeks.
GA: Georgia governor poised to lift restrictions despite warnings of renewed outbreak
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appears poised to ease social restrictions that created disruptions for millions of Georgians amid a still-spreading global pandemic. He has spoken forcefully about the economic harm caused by the quarantine, particularly to small businesses.
LA: New Orleans won’t go with Louisiana business tweaks allowed Friday
In much of Louisiana, restaurant owners are cautiously looking forward to opening some outdoor tables, and mall stores to beginning curbside service. But New Orleans won’t be participating in those slight relaxations of rules set up to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
MT: Montana will test all nursing home residents, employees
Starting next week, Montana will begin testing all nursing home residents and employees. Older people are especially susceptible to severe outcomes from COVID-19.
ND: North Dakota releases new operating guidelines for businesses
North Dakotans will be able to return to bars, restaurants, salons and gyms Friday, though many of the amenities and experiences they're used to won't be available under new operating protocols state officials and industry groups developed.
SD: Governor unveils plan to get South Dakota ‘back to normal’
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem unveiled her plan to get South Dakota “back to normal” by encouraging schools and businesses to allow limited gatherings and cautioning people to continue to keep their distance from one another.
VT: No new Vermont virus cases, but state preparing for more
Statistics reported by the Vermont Health Department show the first day in weeks in which no new cases were reported of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The figures also showed that no one has died of COVID-19 in Vermont in a week.
CT: Connecticut stocks up on gloves, masks and hand sanitizer
Connecticut has spent millions of dollars in the past few weeks stocking up on equipment that will be vital to reopen businesses, from disposable masks and cases of hand sanitizer to nearly 40,000 boxes of gloves, according to state records reviewed by the Courant.
IN: Indiana governor to business owners: 'If you're not ready to open, don't' when state gives OK
Businessowners concerned about customer and employee safety can reopen at their own pace once it's permitted, Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. He said guidance and the opportunity to reopen is not a mandate.
RI: Events with hundreds of people banned in Rhode Island this summer
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that parades, concerts and festivals won’t be happening because of the coronavirus. She also said summer weddings with greater than 50 people are unlikely to be permitted.
CA: California prepares for phased reopening amid rising senior deaths
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, outlined a four-stage “roadmap” plan for the gradual loosening of his mandatory stay-at-home order, which has been in place six weeks. The governor’s roadmap comes as at least 1,880 Californians have died from the coronavirus, about 40% of them in senior care homes.
VA: Virginia governor says elective surgeries can resume Friday
Non-emergency surgeries at hospitals and dental practices in Virginia can resume Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced. Northam said the state has slowed the spread of the virus enough to allow the elective procedures, some of which can be critical for patients in deteriorating health.
NC: North Carolina tattoo parlor owner arrested for defying closure orders
Matthew “Jax” Myers vowed to open his Apex tattoo parlor in defiance of North Carolina’s stay-home order, insisting his rights had been trampled and his business ruined. But 10 minutes after he flicked on the red “open” sign, police led him away in handcuffs.
AR: Arkansas set to allow some dining in
Limited dine-in service at Arkansas restaurants can resume May 11, GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced. Restaurants will be limited to 33% of their guest capacity.