The seven states that chose to not issue a stay-at-home order last year — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah — were all led by GOP governors.
Republican-led states were also early to ease pandemic business restrictions and mask mandates: Missouri, Montana, Iowa and Alaska were some of the first states to peel back their business requirements in January and February. Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, New Hampshire and Wyoming followed in March.
Of those states, Montana, New Hampshire, Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah, Missouri and Nebraska returned to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity in April and reported lower unemployment than the national 5.8 percent rate in May.
By comparison, states that still have some coronavirus restrictions in place, including California, Connecticut and Hawaii, saw the highest rates of unemployment in the country in May and were still producing less in April than they did pre-pandemic.
Washington lawmakers sent direct checks to millions of middle- and lower-income Americans and supplemented state unemployment benefits with extra weekly payments and coverage for workers traditionally ineligible for jobless aid. They also doled out $1 trillion in forgivable government-backed loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, initially on a first-come, first-served basis.
Other economists question whether Congress could have maneuvered as precisely as Greszler suggested to rescue the economy in the beginning, facing a flood of business closures and tens of millions of layoffs caused by the pandemic health restrictions.
“There isn’t a lot of nuance that you can use in policy when you’re trying to get money out the door as quickly as possible and adjust for the local situations for every worker in the state,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor. “It’s very difficult to get aid out to everybody who needs it at the same time, and in a way that was actually targeted through individual situations.”