COVID-19 Implications on State Government Operations

Thursday, April 2, 2020

This list summarizes trends CAO's face regarding government operations during the response to COVID-19 as of March 30, 2020. This is not an exhaustive list. Trends are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. 

For the full set of our latest perspectives on COVID-19's, download our national briefing material.

Some State Have Taken the Following Steps: 


  • Shifting focus from health response to financial response 
  • Starting to see hiring freezes, discretionary spending freezes, general fund hold back (1%), using reserve funds, suspended capital projects 
  • Working with federal partners to understand State & Local Stimulus, $150 Billion, each state to receive at least $1.25 billion, with more populous states receiving more funding 
  • Financial forecasting is correlated to tax source 
  • States most reliant on personal income (31 states) 
  • States most reliant on sales tax (15 states) 
  • State with heavy reliance on severance tax (9 states) 
  • (Source: Pew Mix of Tax Source by State) 
Human Capital

  • Temporary telework (many states with 50-60% goal, range: 10%-75%) 
  • Hold harmless policies for absenteeism, flexible sick leave 
  • Increased telehealth benefits for state employees 
  • Instituted Mental Health Resources 
  • Employee Financial Assistance Program benefits 
  • Reached out to soon to graduate & recently retired healthcare professionals 
  • Mutual aid agreements with other public/private entities for “skilled volunteers” 
  • Statewide travel restrictions (30 states) 
  • Increased hiring (sanitation workers, call centers); hiring freeze 
  • Pivot employees that cannot complete their job functions 
  • Increased training & learning  
  • Using the idle time to mandate training, create certification programs 


  • Exceptions from competitive solicitation laws and policies: 23 states (Source: NASPO) 
  • Flexible payment terms (pre-payment checklist) 
  • Blanket or increased purchase authority to purchase PPE 
  • Created dedicated COVID-19 procurement team, email 
  • Added a medical professional to the procurement team for immediate sign-offs to specifications that may delay the process 
  • Challenge: Specific items states are having a hard time procuring. Cooperatives are great tools, but a cooperative vendor may not have the supplies 
  • Challenge: Government price gouging & 24-hour delays may cause a lost vendor 


  • Restricted or closed Capitol Campus activities 
  • Restricted or closed state-owned government buildings 
  • Avg State: 2,200 owned or leased buildings (Source: NASCA-McKinsey) 
  • Preparing to use state facility as a quarantine/ isolation & visitation zone, sites included convention centers, fairgrounds, state parks, hotels 
  • State are retrofitting sites for medical facilities, quarantine homeless & vulnerable populations 
  • Analyzing risk & insurance involved in using a non-state-owned facility (ex: hotel) 


  • A variance of capability by state, by agency 
  • Citizen facing portals surge (HHS & Unemployment portals); one-entry sign-on surge 
  • Expansion of virtual private network (VPN) access and licenses 
  • Prepared for cybersecurity increased risk   
  • Moving to IT centralization 
  • Examples of response include: 
  • States conducting a survey of bring your own device (BYOD) 
  • Mass purchases of laptops & cloud capability 
  • Essential staff only work from home until policies can be implemented 
  • No change 

Other Trends   

  • State volunteer portals to connect healthcare demand with willing volunteers 
  • Used asset management team, procurement team for donated items 
  • Postpone, cancel, or virtual options for Boards and Commissions, guidance from State’s Attorney General 
  • Continued Census Communications  
  • Local & county governments taking harsher restrictions than state restrictions. (As of 3/27/20, 15 states. Source: New York Times). 
  • Differing response for urban vs rural Capitols, states 
  • Cross-boundary collaboration with local governments & universities, Mayor vs. Governor's dynamics in some states 
  • States lack powers to close airports, federal responsibility