SC Legislative Update – 5/5/20

By Ben Homeyer

During todays accelerateSC meeting a lot of topics were discussed and a ton of information was put forth.  400,000 South Carolinians are currently unemployed.  $222 million in Unemployment has been paid out from the state and $508 million from the federal government (the extra $600)  Over $5.7 Billion has paid out to SC from the Feds for Paycheck protection loans, direct payment to hospitals and other qualified groups, local government etc.  The group is going to continue to meet after this meeting and are going to try and work with the House and Senate committees that have been formed to help with re-opening the state.

Response Component: Helen Hill/Department of Commerce

  • The Committee has put forth recommendations that inside dining begin on May 11
  • Recommendations on when to open close quarter businesses will be forthcoming (salons, gyms churches etc)
  • Attraction openings are being discussed (think Darlington raceway, Carowinds etc)
  • Looking at an emergency supply chain and a central repository for getting PPE to businesses.
  • Child care is still a major issue.  1255 centers are closed which is over 50% of those licensed in the state
    • They don’t have a plan yet to  re-open and are not sure why many are closed as they are deemed essential
  • July 31 the extra $600 from the feds will be halted and it is not expected to be continued
  • Recall resistance to work is being seen because of the extra dollars people are earning
  • Many manufacturing facilities have begun to open this week and many more will open next week as supply chains can be ramped up
  • 4500 responses to chamber survey to businesses.  Two biggest issues from the survey were lack of demand for their product and inability to make pay roll.
  • 43% when they do re-open do not plan to bring back all of their employees
  • 64% are most concerned about liability once they do re-open
  • Both large and small employers have concerns about ever being able to open again
  • Multiple groups are working on liability protection and safe harbor language for the GA when they return.
    • Senator Malloy stated the GA will be back next week.  Main focus is to pass a CR to keep the government running and then a sine die so they can look at Legislation.  It is his feeling they will then wait to come back until September 15 so it is a safer environment for them to be in session.
    • Senator Davis is optimistic about moving a number of pieces of legislation.  He’s working with local government on a number of governance provisions which the state has to approve, budgeting provisions, as well as state agency regulatory changes.  Davis is looking at each provision from the Accelerate committee and what legislation they may need.
    • Both Senators feel that items will need to be less and maybe even non-controversial to go forward.

Protection Component: Christian Soura/Department of Health and Environmental Control

  • The focus for the group is to safely get people back to work
    • Preventing – basically the CDC guidelines of washing hands, distance, stay home if sick, etc.
    • Need to keep the infection low enough to keep hospitals operating properly but allow workers to return
    • At risk groups and high risk settings should continue to use extreme caution and distance as much as possible and limit any visitations to high risk groups
    • Employers should consider taking the temp of all employees daily
    • Look at staggering employees in the office (A team, B team on different days)
    • Tele-work continuing for months
    • Testing – The amount of testing go on is continuing to increase with new testing sites as well as new tests themselves becoming available
    • Both diagnostic testing (active case of covid) and antibody testing (Have you been exposed) are both in the public domain now
    • No single repository where test results can be seen
    • Responding – As testing capacity grows the data shows its clustered in parts of the state and effecting minorities the most
    • DHEC is developing a rapid response team for hot spots
    • Adapting – States should not rely on the federal stockpile for PPE
    • A full time network for future pandemics needs to be established
    • Smart phone apps are being developed
    • Find new data resources that can work with DHEC to increase the technology components.
    • They have not looked at child care facilities and how the spread may or may not effect that group.
  • is where business can go to get PPE
  • Malloy would like to see more attention paid to the prison population as they are so close together and about 500 prisoners a day go back in to the community and need to make sure they are not infected.
  • Dr. Cole of MUSC said need to keep track of the incidence of new cases and prevalence of new cases in the community as re-openings are happening.   If a particular region shows an increase then something must be done immediately to “put the genie back in the bottle locally”
  • Zip Code daily reporting by DHEC is occurring.  Historical data is not telling the whole story.

Governance Component: Mayor Knox White/Executive Office of the Governor

  • Local Government, Education, first responders and law enforcement made up the group
    • Restaurant industry expressed they know they need to make people comfortable before they will come back.
    • Budget extensions needed for locals (they don’t have an idea on revenue at this point
    • Want the state to front load the Local Government fund as a cushion until they get their budgets settled
    • State revolving loan fund repayment dates moved.  This could help them with utility payments
    • Would like to see hospitality and tourism tax dollars able to be used for multiple issues
    • Waivers for schools.  Any electronic days could count towards the 180 days mandate
    • Colleges and universities want leave forgiveness and the ability to furlough as needed
    • Working to try and help students keep scholarships even if they can’t return in the fall to institutions because of covid related financial issues
    • Would like regional detention centers for positive tested inmates

Resources Component: Greg Ryberg/Executive Budget Office

  • Looking at federal dollars that are for agencies as well as those for cities and counties
    • Metrics to make sure the funds are allocated on a transparent basis as the dollars are so large
    • 1.996 billion in one pot and 48 million in another pot.
      • Any related expenditures to covid 19 between march 13 and dec 30, 2020.
        • Locals could give grants to businesses that were forced to close because or ordinances imposed during the shutdown.  It is most likely that it could provide equipment needed to re-open
      • Medical expenses, hospitals, PPE, cleaning public areas, payroll expenses
      • Broadband deficiency is a major problem for SC in getting information out to rural SC
      • No plan exists or structure to roll out a statewide broadband system.
      • Federal Government is looking at $85 billion expenditure for rural broadband
      • Could deploy statewide hotspots until a plan is developed.
      • Will be meeting again next Tuesday as a sub group
      • Lack of a broadband rollout plan by the General Assembly is something that has to be addressed and quickly.
        • Rep Pope does not think a one size fits all to broadband is good for SC. In some cases co-ops may need to be involved, in others the states may have to take the lead.  Hospitals, teachers, employers would all benefit.
      • Davis would like to use some of the $1.996 billion to develop the plan
      • $20 billion was already allocated federally for broadband but without a plan SC does not qualify for any of the funds
      • Lt. Gov. encouraged locals to get the census word out there as that plays a part to get those federal dollars

Information Component: Marcia Adams

  • Is going to be a one stop place for as much data as possible.  Developed by DOA and their IT shop to try and get all the info in one place.  Launched today.  It has a great deal of information that will be changing daily but is a good resource for questions and answers.

In addition to the accelerate meeting I spoke with SC DSS.  This was in regard to their child care tax credit for essential workers.  Got some clarification.  Originally DSS limited the essential workers but they have opened it up to skilled trades such as HVAC and plumbing, Home Builders, Truck Drivers, and others.  Couple of qualifiers.  The program is going to close on Friday so get your application in by then. You do not need to fill in the income portion, and make sure when in the reason for qualifications you talk about why your business is essential.  Don’t just say CISA classified or Governor McMaster mandate.  DSS has the authority to limit from that group so talk about why you are essential.