All We Want for Christmas*: End the Public Health Emergency
Back in September—three months ago—President Biden declared that the pandemic is over.
Back in August, the CDC quietly ended its “social distancing” guidelines.
Back in January, the government announced that it would stop paying for at-home COVID testing, shifting the cost to private insurance.
In December of last year, the CDC shortened its guidelines for isolation and quarantine.
No matter what seems to change—including our real-world behavior, our collective immunity levels, and the federal government’s own guidance—one thing has remained unchanged: the official designation of a public health emergency on COVID. It’s time for the federal government’s response to COVID to match its own guidance.
Even if you haven’t known about the public health emergency, it’s affecting every one of us, in ways having nothing to do with your health.
- Suspended work requirements: As long as there’s an ongoing public health emergency, work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) on food stamps are suspended. This means those best positioned to work simply aren’t required to or feel any incentive to—because often it’s more lucrative to stay home and receive welfare benefits with no strings attached than to go to work.
- Supersized food stamps: Under the public health emergency, the Biden administration unilaterally allowed enrollees to receive the maximum benefit, which they have also unilaterally increased by 25 percent.
- Medicaid handcuffs: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) promised states a 6.2 percent bump in funding on the condition that they could not remove anyone from the program—even if they became ineligible.
FGA has been ringing the bell about the need to end the public health emergency. Here’s a snapshot of the recent coverage highlighting this critical reform:
- The Wall Street Journal: The Covid Medicaid Money Grab
- The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: The Battle Over Work and Welfare
The Bottom Line: It’s time to end the public health emergency
Every 90 days since early 2020, the public health emergency has needed an official renewal to continue. Every 90 days, it quietly receives that renewal, regardless of case numbers or spending totals or public input.
The public health emergency is no longer about the government’s response to the pandemic; it has become a vehicle for the federal government to expand welfare enrollment and limit state policymakers’ ability to control costs.
It’s adding up. More workers have remained out of the workforce, taxpayer spending keeps going out the door on government programs, and dependence on government grows stronger every day.
Now is the time to end the public health emergency. Call it a Christmas present from Uncle Sam, or Santa, or whoever, but it’s time for the government to follow its own guidance.
*Well, not “all” we want for Christmas. FGA helped pass nearly 100 policy reforms in 30+ states in 2022, so it’s hard to pick just one! Keep checking the blog throughout December for more policy highlights and Christmas wishes.