COVID-19

What We Believe

The public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 was unprecedented and has required flexibility and creativity to address an ever-changing situation. From the beginning, the Niskanen Center has been working to help policymakers grapple with issues on several fronts.

Regulation: Intellectual property (IP) is an important tool of U.S. innovation and industrial policy. But like any other policy tool, it comes with costs and benefits. For example, IP can create barriers in regulatory exclusivity, which hampers the speediness of information sharing and manufacturing in times of crisis.

The Niskanen Center has consistently supported measures to make COVID-related intellectual property available to as many people and institutions as possible:

  • We participate in the Open COVID Pledge, a collaborative arrangement between private companies and nonprofits to pool knowledge and IP needed to fight the pandemic. 
  • We have supported the exercise of compulsory licensing via either the march-in rights contained in the Bayh-Dole Act or the use of the government’s licensing powers under “Section 1498.” 
  • We are proud to support the Biden administration’s push for a waiver on intellectual property enforcement requirements in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to ensure that every country in the world can manufacture enough vaccines and treatments and access the knowledge needed to do so.

Poverty and Welfare: In March 2020, the Niskanen Center worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure emergency economic relief reached the households that needed it most.

Niskanen’s work on child benefits crystalized last year when Republican Senators Romney, Cotton (R-AK), and Hawley (R-MO) all voiced early support for emergency cash payments to every adult and child in the country. 

Niskanen also advocated reducing the paperwork required to apply for recovery rebates, enhancing fiscal stabilization for states amid falling sales revenue, increasing SNAP benefits, and continuing emergency unemployment benefits in states with low vaccination rates. 

Immigration: We have advocated for immigrants to access testing, treatment, and vaccination for COVID-19. The more that individuals protect their health, the less susceptible others will be to the virus. This means that COVID-19 testing and treatment must not negatively impact a public charge determination in the future.

We have also been vocal in calling for states to allow foreign-trained doctors, nurses, and social workers to aid burned-out health care workers here in the U.S. as hospitals continue to overflow. Finally, we’ve worked to ensure that closures of USCIS did not negatively impact immigrant populations like DACA and TPS recipients and students. Since March 2020, we have also advocated for lifting Title 42 that currently prohibits the entry of migrants into the United States, even when seeking legal remedy.

Elections: When COVID-19 began shutting down events throughout the United States, we realized this had massive implications for safe participation in U.S. elections. We were vocal in ensuring that security funds for elections were bolstered. Our efforts included a bipartisan push to increase funding from $140 million to election security to closer to $2 billion. We also worked with lawmakers to explore the feasibility of various voting modalities, including mail-in ballots and no-excuse absentee voting nationwide. 

As Americans reel from the economic and human costs of this virus, we will continue to advocate for creative, sustainable solutions that bolster the economy at large and offer relief to those who need it most.

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