The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., photo by lucky-photographer/Getty Images

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Summer Reading List for Congress

Photo by lucky-photographer/Getty Images

August 18, 2020

While this year's August recess may be less of a respite than those of the past, staff should still have an opportunity to step back from the fast pace of votes and hearing preparation to examine priorities for the fall and beyond. Below are some recent RAND publications that address issues that congressional staff may need to wrestle with over the recess and into the next legislative session.

Conducting Safe Elections During a Pandemic

Many experts believe that there will be a continued need this fall for public health interventions—such as social distancing, reduced occupancy in indoor spaces, and aggressive sanitizing protocols—to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public. Part of RAND's Countering Truth Decay initiative, a new project examines how the United States can hold its elections more safely and securely during this ongoing pandemic. Researchers consider whether states have the flexible policies needed to support safety measures—such as online voter registration, flexible remote voting options such as vote-by-mail without a required excuse, and an early voting period—and examine levels of risk regarding safety, integrity, access, and logistics.

Explore RAND's research on conducting safe elections during a pandemic

How to Reopen Schools: Q&A with RAND Experts

The debate over in-person or virtual classes is complicated not just by health concerns, but also disparities in access to technology, questions about what types of instruction are effective, and the understanding that home-based learning is placing a burden on many parents. In this Q&A, RAND researchers discuss considerations such as implications of closed schools for student achievement gaps and families' abilities to make a living, the need for building a tutor workforce, and the lack of remote learning standards.

Read the Q&A

What We Really Need to Make Telehealth Stick

Congress temporarily expanded telemedicine treatment to help people maintain access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. With many of these telehealth flexibilities set to expire, policymakers are considering how to make these temporary changes permanent. A recent commentary examines what still stands in the way of sustained use of telehealth treatment and what policymakers can do to cultivate its growth.

Read the commentary

China's Grand Strategy

China aims to be well governed, socially stable, economically prosperous, technologically advanced, and militarily powerful by 2050. Will it succeed? How might its progress affect U.S.-China relations over the next three decades? This report examines scenarios that not only align with China's current national development trends, but also represent the most challenging future scenarios for the U.S. military.

Read the report

Planning for a COVID-19 Hurricane

Without proper planning, the threat of hurricanes combined with COVID-19 is a recipe for disaster: response systems may already be at capacity or overwhelmed, evacuation and sheltering will have extra complications, and household stocking of supplies may be even more critical than normal. A recent commentary suggests that emergency managers need to analyze their strategies to develop hurricane-plus-COVID-19 scenarios to yield complementary outcomes instead of two separate plans for each situation.

Read the commentary

Key Questions to Ask in Designing a Pandemic Risk Business Interruption Insurance Program

Given the challenges that private insurers face in providing business interruption and event cancellation insurance for pandemic risk, some type of government backstop program may be necessary if pandemic risk insurance is ever going to be widely available to U.S. businesses. This commentary discusses key questions policymakers could consider when establishing such a program.

Read the commentary

The Military Case for Extending the New START Agreement

Unless the United States acts to extend it, the New START agreement is set to expire in February 2021. This paper describes key provisions of New START, the ways in which the treaty supports U.S. military objectives, and the broader political context in which the current debate over its extension is taking place.

Read the paper

Jayme Fuglesten and Grace Evans