Center for American Progress

RELEASE: What Policymakers Should Do To Help Rural America Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic
Press Release

RELEASE: What Policymakers Should Do To Help Rural America Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. — As several states with large rural populations begin to reopen their economies, a new brief from the Center for American Progress looks at the unique challenges that rural America faces in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. The brief finds that many rural communities are less prepared than their urban counterparts to handle an influx of virus cases because they have fewer health care facilities, their populations tend to have more chronic health issues, and residents face transportation challenges.

The brief also looks at the ways in which the crisis is playing out in different types of rural communities. While rural communities across the country saw a large increase in cases in March, counties that are home to significant elderly populations saw the most cases. Meanwhile, cases in predominantly African American southern communities increased more quickly throughout the second half of March, almost surpassing elderly communities.

The brief also lays out the following policy solutions to help rural communities fight the pandemic:

  • Expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion has saved thousands of lives. It is also important for reducing medical debt for individuals, especially for African Americans, and can help struggling hospitals stay afloat. Congress must increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid payments by at least 10 percentage points for the duration of the recession. This increase should be pegged to increases in state unemployment rates, which will help ensure coverage through future economic downturns.
  • Enact a national stay-at-home order.
  • Congress and state legislatures should dedicate funding to communities with populations below 50,000. This will prevent smaller communities from having to compete with larger municipalities for scarce state and federal resources.

“Rural communities have been left behind by the government’s coronavirus response,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress and author of the brief. “As some governors rush to reopen their economies, they need to consider that cases in rural communities are continuing to rise and that those communities are, in many ways, less equipped than big cities to manage the crisis. But beyond continuing stay-at-home orders, policymakers need to look at the unique challenges communities face economically, medically, and logistically and enact policies to help rural residents meet those challenges.”

Read the brief: “Rural America Is Starting To Feel the Impact of the Coronavirus” by Olugbenga Ajilore

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at [email protected].

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.