SC Senate Re-Open South Carolina Select Committee forms “Safe Harbor Subcommittee,” accelerateED Task Force Releases Summer Learning & Operations Recommendations, SC Employment Situation

Email to COVID-19 Mailing List: May 22nd

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: SC Senate Re-Open South Carolina Select Committee forms “Safe Harbor Subcommittee,” accelerateED Task Force Releases Summer Learning & Operations Recommendations, SC Employment Situation

ICYMI:

  • US Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark highlights SC Chamber’s COVID-19 Business Survey on Fox Business News. WATCH
  • If you weren’t able to join us yesterday, be sure to check out our webinar presented by Will Johnson of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd on PPP Forgiveness Application Guidelines. You can access the audio of the presentation here or click here to view the slides.

1. SC Senate Re-Open South Carolina Select Committee forms “Safe Harbor Subcommittee”

Yesterday, the SC Senate Re-Open South Carolina Select Committee met for the second time. It took testimony from representatives of the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Chairman, Senator Thomas Alexander, announced that he was creating a new “Safe Harbor Committee” to consider liability protection legislation, as advocated for by the SC Chamber and our partner organizations. Organizations include the SC Manufacturers Alliance, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Medical Association, and the SC Retail Association. Senator Tom Davis chairs the Committee and also includes Senators Ross Turner, Vincent Sheheen, and Gerald Malloy.

We look forward to working with this committee on this critical issue.

The Re-Open Committee also discussed the need to replenish the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund, a top priority in the SC Chamber’s Relief and Recovery Agenda. As mentioned in our previous email, the accelerateSC Resources Group recommended $500 million of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act go toward supplementing the UI Trust Fund. DEW Economist Erica Von Nessen testified that according to current models, the Trust Fund could be down to about $200/$300 million by the end of the calendar year if the virus follows its current trajectory and the economy continues to reopen gradually. The infusion of an extra $500 million in CARES Act funds will go a long way toward reducing the tax burden on businesses, which are already in a precarious position.

The Committee stated that it plans to meet again next Wednesday, May 27th, at 1:00 pm.

House COVID-19 Meetings Scheduled: The House COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee will meet virtually on May 26th at 2:00 pm. The House COVID-19 Public Education Committee will meet virtually on May 27th at 10:00 am.


2. accelerateED Task Force Releases Summer Learning Recommendations; Higher Education Update

accelerateED Task Force: Yesterday, SC Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman convened the AccelerateED task force for the fourth time and presented a first draft of “Summer Learning & Operations Recommendations.” This report lays out draft proposals focused on getting kindergarten through third graders up-to-speed through summer programs and making sure in-person classes are safe.

Specific proposals include:

  • Having Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and students for situations when social distancing isn’t possible
  • Increasing access to cleaning supplies and not sharing items without sanitizing them first
  • Ensuring every school has a full-time nurse.
  • Adding COVID-19 screening questions to summer registration packets
  • Hiring additional tutors
  • Hiring additional counselors
  • Focusing on social distancing within classrooms – limiting them to 12 to 16 students per teacher
  • Designating entrances and exits to the school and restricting visitation
  • Creating “Reopening Teams’ within each district to coordinate and communicate as schools begin in-person instruction

Many of these recommendations will require significant funding. Earlier this week, the accelerateSC Resources Committee recommended allocating $13.4 million of the $1.1 billion in CARES Act funds for South Carolina for “Summer Reading/Math Intervention K-3 Camp” so that may help offset some of those costs.

The Task Force will meet again on Tuesday to formally approve the recommendations or suggest changes.

Higher Education Update: Both the University of South Carolina (UofSC) and Clemson University have announced a phased-in reopening plan of their campuses over the summer for faculty and students and will resume in-person classes in the fall. UofSC has also announced plans to allow student-athletes to return in June voluntarily for training. As with businesses and industries facing challenges in reopening, both public and private higher education institutions also face these challenges and are concerned with how best to keep their institutions safe without fear of unwarranted litigation risks. 


3. SC Employment Situation

Today, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) released the monthly “Employment Situation Report” for April 2020. Highlights include:

  • The seasonally adjusted monthly survey of households estimated the number of South Carolinians working fell to 2,089,889.
    • This is a decrease of 238,913 people over March 2020.
    • This is a decrease of 203,982 people over April 2019.
  • Unemployment estimates increased to 288,022 people.
    • That is a significant increase of 211,653 people since March 2020 and a substantial increase of 210,351 over April 2019. This increase is the largest over-the-month as well as the highest level on record for the state.
    • The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to a record 12.1 percent in April from March’s revised rate of 3.2 percent. This increase is the highest rate and the largest over-the-month in the history of the data series going back to 1976.
  • The state’s estimated labor force (people working plus unemployed people looking for work) decreased to 2,377,911.
    • This is a decrease of 27,260 people since March 2020.
    • This is an increase of 6,369 individuals over April 2019.
  • From April 2019 to April 2020, South Carolina’s economy lost 254,600 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs.

DEW Director Dan Ellzey released the following statement which accompanied the Employment Situation Report:

“While South Carolina’s high unemployment rate is shocking compared to the record lows we recently enjoyed, I am sure that this news isn’t a surprise to anyone. As the unemployment rate has increased dramatically to 12.1%, it is significantly less than the US rate of 14.7%. This unemployment level reflects our state’s careful, planned response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April.”

The agency also released updated weekly unemployment numbers yesterday:

  • For the week ending May 16th, 29,446 people filed an initial claim.
  • This is a decrease of 3,067 initial claims from the week prior.
  • This is the fifth decrease recorded since mid-March.
  • In the last nine weeks, the total number of initial claims received is 515,595.
  • The agency has paid more than $1.35 billion in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal CARES Act programs.