Chamber Launches Wear It SC Challenge, DHEC Releases Guidance for COVID-19 Scenarios in Businesses, PPP/Unemployment

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: Chamber Launches Wear It SC Challenge, DHEC Releases Guidance for COVID-19 Scenarios in Businesses, PPP/Unemployment


1. SC Chamber Launches #WearItSC Challenge

#WearItSC Challenge: The South Carolina Chamber is encouraging leaders across the state to participate in our Wear A Mask to “Safe” SC campaign. The goal of this campaign is to remind our community that the economy, jobs, and lives depend on our best efforts to take appropriate safety precautions in response to COVID-19.

How can you be a part of the campaign? 

  1. Share the graphics in our media kit, tagging the Chamber, and using the #WearItSC hashtag.
  2. Share photos of yourself, and your team/staff/company wearing face coverings, tag the Chamber, and use the campaign hashtag and nominate someone to join the campaign.  

Local Mask Requirements: As we announced last week, many municipalities are now implementing mandatory mask ordinances. Click here for the most up-to-date list.


2. DHEC Releases Guidance for COVID-19 Scenarios in Businesses

On Monday, June 29th, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released new guidance specific to COVID-19 scenarios in a business environment. It includes a list of action items businesses should take in the following scenarios: 

  • An employee tests positive for COVID-19 
  • An employee is sick with COVID-19 symptoms but has not been tested. 
  • An employee has been in close contact (within six feet for more than 15 minutes) with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • An employee has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms but has not been tested 
  • An employee who lives with someone who has been in close contact with someone displaying COVID-19 symptoms, and
  • An employee who is a restaurant patron at an establishment that later announces an employee at the restaurant is positive for COVID-19. 

More DHEC COVID-19-specific resources for businesses and employers, including the guidance mentioned above, can be found here.


3. PPP/Unemployment Update

Paycheck Protection Loan Application Extended 

This week both bodies of the US Congress passed a bill extending the deadline to apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill now goes to the President’s desk, where we expect he will sign it into law. 

  • The new deadline to apply for a loan under the PPP is August 8th. Originally the deadline was June 30th. 
  • Around $130 million remains in the PPP fund. 
  • Further talks on reforming the PPP will likely occur after Congress returns from their 4th of July holiday. 

Latest Unemployment Numbers:

The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) released updated weekly unemployment numbers today:

  • For the week ending June 27th, the initial claims filed were 16,959.
  • This is a decrease of 139 initial claims from the week prior.
  • This is the 10th decrease in the last eleven weeks.
  • The total number of initial claims received since mid-March is 635,688.
  • The agency has paid more than $2.72 billion in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal CARES Act programs.

DEW Director Dan Ellzey released the following statement along with the new numbers:

“While the number of people seeking first-time unemployment assistance fell, the state is not seeing the movement week-over-week for which we hoped. There are still a lot of questions and unknowns as to what the future will hold, how long this economic stall will go on, and what the true magnitude of the impact will truly be. However, what we know is when the virus initially caused the economy to shut down in March, with job cuts highly concentrated in the restaurant, travel, hospitality, and retail industries. While those industries are still feeling the residual impact, the effect is continuing to spread to other sectors like professional services, manufacturing, and health care as sustained weeks of hardship drag on...”

DEW Launches Extended Benefits (EB) Program: Yesterday, DEW announced that it has begun offering the EB Program. This gives another ten weeks of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits (20 weeks) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits (13 weeks). DEW will notify individuals who are eligible to apply for the new EB program through their MyBenefits portal. If approved for EB, the weekly amount will be the same as the individual received for regular UI plus the $600 through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

There are several new resources to assist with this application process, including:

Updates to Unemployment Trust Fund Forecasts: Yesterday, in a presentation to the House COVID-19 Employment, Workforce and Business Recovery Committee, Chaired by Kirkman Finlay, DEW announced forecasts for the Unemployment Trust Fund balance. DEW’s economist, Erica Von Nessen, presented two different models for consideration, an optimistic and a pessimistic scenario. She did say that it appears the two models are converging.

Under the pessimistic model (which assumes most claimants exhaust all 20 weeks of state benefits, predicts the trust fund balance will dip down around $0 near the end of December. DEW noted:

  • If borrowing is required, it is unknown if there will be federal forgiveness.
    • No loan forgiveness after the Great Recession
    • We can currently borrow interest-free through 12/31/2020
  • Regardless of whether we borrow or not, a significant rebuild of the Trust Fund will be required.
    • State law requires Trust Fund rebuilding to a level based on the severity of the last three recessions.
    • New target balance likely $1.1 - $1.3 billion.
    • This results in higher unemployment taxes.
  • CARES Act money that goes toward replenishing the trust fund will reduce the tax burden on businesses in the years to come

Period

Trust Fund Balance

Cumulative Funding Needed for $1.1B

June 13thth, 2020

$753.1 million

$346.9 million

December 31stst, 2020

$8.4 million

$1,091.6 million

April 30thth, 2021

-$166.9 million

$1,266.9 million

TOTAL

 

$1,266.9 million


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

USMCA: On Wednesday, July 1st, the new United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) went into effect, taking the place of North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had been in place for over 26 years. You can find a fact sheet of how this new agreement will impact South Carolina here and overall highlights of the new trade agreement here.

Be Pro Be Proud Launches New Website: The Associated Industries of South Carolina Foundation (AISCF) launches the BeProBeProudSC.org this afternoon. The site connects job seekers, employers in skilled-trade industries, educators, guidance counselors, and high school students. The site launch is in anticipation of the August launch of the Be Pro Be Proud SC mobile workshop. View the BPBP-SC Media Kit here