US House and Senate Pass Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Reform, SC Superintendent of Education Gives Update to House Committee, Latest Unemployment Numbers

Email to COVID-19 Mailing List: June 4th

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: US House and Senate Pass Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Reform, SC Superintendent of Education Gives Update to House Committee, Latest Unemployment Numbers

1. US House and Senate Pass Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Reform

Last night, the US Senate unanimously passed H.R.7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where he expects to sign the bill into law.

Changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under HR 7010 include:

  • Extending the deadline to spend PPP funds from within eight weeks to within 24 weeks.
  • Decreasing the amount that must be spent on payroll from 75% to 60%, to allow businesses to spend more of their loan on overhead costs.
  • Extending the timeframe for paying back non-forgivable portions of the loan from 2 years to 5 years.
  • Codifying that a business seeking loan forgiveness will not have their forgiveness amount reduced if they do not have the same number of employees as before February 15th, 2020, as long as they show a good faith effort to bring back employees.
  • Extending deferral of loan payments from 1 year to until the time in which the forgivable portion of the loan is determined but notes that they must apply for forgiveness within ten months of receiving the loan.

Questions remain as to how forgiveness will work under this new rule, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the US Treasury Department expect to issue new guidance soon.

According to the latest figures from the SBA, roughly $130 billion remains available for PPP loans. In South Carolina (as of May 30th), 58,851 loans totaling $5,637,682,539 have been approved.

2. SC Superintendent of Education Gives Update to House Committee

SC State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman gave a comprehensive update on the status of public K-12 education to the House COVID-19 Public Education Committee, chaired by Representative Ray Felder, yesterday. She reiterated the three delivery methods of instruction during the crisis:

  • eLearning: assignments, instruction, and assessments done entirely online
    • Used by 19 districts to serve 219,988 students or 28% of the state
  • Paper Packets: students sent paper packets via buses delivering lunches
    • Used by 17 districts to serve 64,206 students or 8% of the state
  • Blended: giving students a mix of eLearning assignments and paper packets
    • Used by 45 districts to serve 492,267 students or 63% of the state

She further explained the number mentioned by many news outlets regarding the number of students “who have not been heard from.” Superintendent Spearman relayed that while they initially reported not hearing from 40,000 students, that number is a moving target. The State Department of Education (SDE) is currently surveying principals to report within a week by grade level the numbers of students that they have not been able to contact – the Superintendent believes these updated numbers will be much lower than the 40,000 reported initially.

Finally, Superintendent Spearman described the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund), which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. South Carolina received $216.3 million in total in ESSER funds. Under the law, 90% of the ESSER formula funds, or $194.7 million, must be allocated to school districts and public charter schools proportional to the 2019-2020 school year Title 1 Part A allocation. She explained:

  • Applications are live
  • Allowable uses for the funds are as follows:
    • Any activities authorized under special Federal programming.
    • Coordinate emergency response
    • Address needs of highly vulnerable populations
    • Support school leaders and school needs
    • Ensure preparedness and coordination
    • Training related to infectious diseases
    • Purchase cleaning supplies to sanitize and clean schools
    • Planning/coordinating for long-term closures
    • Purchase education technology
    • Mental health supports
    • Summer learning
    • Other activities to ensure continuity of education and employment
  • She encourages districts to use some of the ESSER funds to prepare for future eLearning needs.

The next meeting of the House COVID-19 Public Education Committee will be on Thursday, June 11th, at 10:00 am and will focus on broadband.

3. Latest SC Unemployment Numbers

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

  • For the week ending May 30th, the initial claims filed were 18,986.
  • This is a decrease of 5,964 initial claims from the week prior.
  • This is the 7th decrease recorded since mid-March.
  • In the last eleven weeks, the total number of initial claims received is 559,531.
  • The agency has paid more than $1.8 billion in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal CARES Act programs.