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Giving Compass' Take:
• Some states are overriding local action by limiting cities' efforts to respond to coronavirus and take measures to mitigate risks.
• How can city and state officials work together toward comprehensive and safe policies that protect all residents? How can donors support communities that are especially vulnerable during this time?
• Read about local measures taken to respond to the pandemic.
As coronavirus took hold across the U.S. in mid-March, images of beaches packed with spring breakers became a symbol of government inaction. Some cities closed their own beaches and issued stay-at-home orders, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at first declined to take similar steps statewide. On April 1, he relented in the face of criticism and issued an order that asked people to limit movement outside their homes to “essential trips.”
But an amended version of that order also did something else: It called into question several stricter stay-at-home orders already passed at the local level.
In the face of coronavirus threats, some states have attempted to clamp down on city measures to keep residents sheltered and businesses closed. But so far in this epidemic, states have been sowing confusion not just by exerting their power to obstruct local action. They’ve also sent mixed messages that leave local governments unsure whether their own measures are valid — or for how long.
States have been dropping the preemption gauntlet on cities for decades, and at least since 2011, red states have been using this power far more frequently, and punitively for cities than ever before, according to a report released last year by the Local Solutions Support Center and the State Innovation Exchange.
“We have seen a steep increase in the use of states deliberately limiting or eliminating the power of cities to pass policies that they think will help improve the lives of their people,” says Kim Haddow, executive director of LSSC. It’s not just emergency coronavirus measures that are affected. Other safety-net measures that would help a particularly large number of residents have been blocked in many states. According to the LSSC report, 23 states have banned local paid sick leave ordinances and 31 states bar cities from passing rent-control policies.
Read the full article about local action on coronavirus by Brentin Mock at CityLab.