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  • Announcements

  • 3/27/2020

    Chamber Members,

    Check out the latest COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce Team. 


    USDOL Issues New Guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Phase 2 Federal Legislation)

    This week, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) released updated information and resources for businesses and employees concerning the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Phase 2 of the federal legislation passed last week (click here for the SC Chamber’s summary of that bill).

    The new information includes fact sheets for employees and employers and a poster which clearly explains the rights of employees under the new legislation:

    *For more information, you can visit the USDOL Wage and Hour Division’s COVID-19 webpage 

    The USDOL also announced that they would hold an online dialogue to allow employers and employees to offer their perspective as the Department develops further informational materials related to the FFCRA. Input is required by March 29th, 2020. Anyone interested can participate online from March 23rd through March 29th.

    Federal Stimulus Bill (Phase 3) – Update

    ICYMI – we summarized HR 748, Phase 3 of the federal response to COVID-19, in our email update yesterday. The US Senate passed the bill last night with no amendments, so our summary remains up-to-date at this time.

    Here are some key highlights of the bill:

    • $350 billion for forgivable small business loans.
    • Expansion of unemployment benefit coverage and amount
    • $500 billion for corporate aid
    • $1,200 checks for certain single filers and $2,400 for certain joint filers
    • $340 billion for healthcare-related programs
    • $150 billion for state and local governments

    The US House expects to pass the legislation tomorrow, with the President signing shortly after that. The Chamber will continue to provide the latest information on the Federal Stimulus Bill and the potential impact it will have for you and your business.

    Local Stay-at-Home Ordinances

    Wednesday, we provided an update on the first Stay-at-Home ordinances affecting South Carolina, in the City of Charleston and Mecklenburg County, a border county in NC. Yesterday, the City of Columbia passed a Stay-at-Home ordinance similar to the Charleston ordinance. Both the Charleston and Columbia ordinances allow essential businesses (defined in the ordinances) to operate using social distancing guidelines. The City of Columbia ordinance can be found here and will go into effect on Sunday, March 29th, at 12:01 am and remain effective for 14 days. 

    We will continue to keep you updated as other cities and counties consider and adopt these ordinances.    

    As of today, Governor McMaster is not considering a statewide Stay-at-Home order. We continue to communicate with the SC Chamber daily to ensure that businesses have advance notice to prepare in the event an order is issued.

    Team Sumter

    Many of our members have done amazing work responding to the needs in our community caused by COVID-19. To that end, we are encouraging businesses in need, and businesses that are filling needs, to share their stories with us. We will post these in our regular email updates to help get the word out and help one another. Last week we launched a new Facebook page titled “Sumter County, SC Take Out & Delivery Options” where local restaurants could post their take out and delivery menus along with hours of operation. Since it has exploded to nearly 6,000 followers and even caught the attention of WLTX News. Yesterday we re-named the page to “Sumter County, Still Open For Business / Eat, Drink and Shop Local”. We are now allowing local businesses of any type to post their new operation procedures that allow our consumers to still get the products and services they need, while continuing to practice safe social distancing. We encourage you to follow our page as information is updated every hour and help our business community during this unprecedented time.

    As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any further information as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out to us at chris.hardy@sumterchamber.com with any questions that you may have.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


     

    3/26/2020

    Chamber Members,

    Today’s latest COVID-19 business information provided by your Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce Team is included below. 


    Senate Poised to Pass Historic Federal Stimulus Bill

    Yesterday, the US Senate passed H.R. 748, Phase 3 of the federal response to COVID-19. Phase 3 is an estimated $2 trillion stimulus plan that includes economic relief for individuals, both small and larger businesses, the healthcare industry and state governments, among many other industries and entities.  This economic recovery plan is one of the largest in American history and, as such, includes a long list of provisions. The latest summary of the key provisions affecting individuals and businesses can be found here. Please note that this summary was updated at 5pm on Wednesday. A final summary will be provided later today or tomorrow.

    • $350 billion for forgivable small business loans.
    • Expansion of unemployment benefit coverage and amount
    • $500 billion for corporate aid
    • $1,200 checks for most single filers and $2,400 for most joint filers
    • $340 billion for healthcare-related programs
    • $150 billion for state and local governments

    The US House is expected to pass the bill, but will have to determine whether a vote can occur without members having to travel back to Washington, D.C.  Your Chamber will continue to provide the latest information on the Federal Stimulus Bill and the potential impact it will have for you and your business.

    Local Stay-at-Home Orders

    Tuesday, the City of Charleston and Mecklenburg County, a border county in North Carolina, issued Stay-at-Home orders following the path of several states (17 to date) and other local jurisdictions around the country. The Charleston order took effect this morning and is effective for 14 days. The Mecklenburg order took effect this morning and is effective until April 16th. The North Carolina Governor’s Office is making plans for a statewide order, to avoid the likelihood of multiple orders in other large cities in N.C. As of today, South Carolina is not considering such an order

    Here are the key provisions of both local orders affecting businesses:

    • Individuals must stay in their homes except to work at or conduct business at an essential business.
    • Non-essential business and operations must cease.
    • Essential businesses must practice social distancing; employees stay at least 6 feet apart.
    • It is unlawful for an individual to refuse to follow the order willfully, and law enforcement officers must enforce the order.
    • Both ordinances use the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency guidance as a basis to define “essential business.” 
    • The City of Charleston ordinance includes a list of 11 broad categories of essential businesses. 
    • The Mecklenburg County ordinance includes specific lists of businesses and entities separated into categories (1) Essential Businesses and Operations, (2) Healthcare and Public Health Operations, (3) Human Services Operations, (4) Essential Government Functions, and (5) Essential Infrastructure.
    • The ordinances do not provide a process for a business to request an exemption from the Stay-At-Home order and show they are essential or require clarification.

    *Read the City of Charleston ordinance here and the Mecklenburg County ordinance here.

    *Both ordinances state that the Essential Businesses List (and other parts of the ordinance) will be reviewed regularly and may be revised. If you are a business operating in these jurisdictions, please review the ordinances carefully to determine if your business is deemed essential. If your business is not on this list, then you can contact the local offices for more information.   


    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here http://www.sumterchamber.com/covid-19-resources

    As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any new information as it becomes available. Please feel free to contact me at chris.hardy@sumterchamber.com with questions

     

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    3/24/2020

    Chamber Members,

     

    Most of you know that during yesterday’s press conference with Governor McMaster, no decision was made regarding a “Shelter at Home” policy which means Sumter is still open for business. We have included some information on our website here that will provide more information as we receive it on our home page titled Covid-19 resources.  http://www.sumterchamber.com/covid-19-resources. We also have information for employers and employees that are included in the expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) under the announcements page.

     

    In addition, we know that those of you who are working from home still need a way to stay in contact with your employees, vendors and customers. Below is a list of resources that will help you stay connected during this crisis.

     

    -Skype for Business: audio and video conferencing. You will need to create a Skype account, and then you're able to sync with SharePoint in Microsoft, and share media. FREE download.

    -Facebook Messenger: able to text chat, audio message, or face-to-face web conferencing within the app, may be useful for getting into contact directly with businesses through their Facebook page, FREE .

    -Zoom: used by many educators currently. Easy to use, chat/audio/video available, can show screen in real-time, can be online or in app, FREE to sign up by using work email, ZoomPlus offers more for a price

    -GoToMeeting: one-click meetings, collaboration meetings made easier, webinars available, cloud recordings, Office365 plug in, Cost starting at $12.00.

    -TeamViewer: software for audio and video conferences, interactive screen sharing, Cost starting at $49.00.

    -Microsoft Teams: uses SharePoint to share files in Office programs, conference calls, group chat, FREE to those with Office365 program package, Costs start at $12.95/month for others.

     

    Also, please don’t forget to complete our survey that was sent yesterday here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DZWPXDR. If there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to call us. Let us use our resources to help you!  

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    3/23/2020

    Chamber Members,

    With states and local governments issuing new orders and laws to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, the most common question we are hearing is whether your business or industry will be deemed “essential” in the event a “shelter in place” order is issued in South Carolina. To date, no such order has been given by Governor McMaster. Instead, he is encouraging employers to allow employees to work from home if they can.

    Friday, the US Department of Homeland Security- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response” to help state and local governments and the private sector ensure that employees essential to operations of critical infrastructure can continue working with as little interruption as possible. CISA’s guidance identifies 16 broadly defined critical industries.

    A detailed explanation of CISA’s guidance can be found here, along with frequently asked questions, and full details are also on their website.

    We believe CISA’s guidance is a starting point, and we are researching other factors to consider when and if the Governor and his administration have to determine which businesses to deem essential in the event a shelter in place order is given. 

    Maintaining the ability of essential industries to continue doing business is a top priority for the Chamber. Our staff is working closely with both national and state-level officials to convey this priority. We have asked Governor McMaster and his team to consult with the business community well before making any decisions that will affect them.

    As always, we will keep you up to date on any new information as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out to us a chris.hardy@sumterchamber.com anytime.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    3/20/2020

    The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
     
    On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and will go into effect on April 2, 2020.  The law is an economic stimulus plan aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Americans and introducing paid sick leave and an expanded family and medical leave to the nation’s employers.
    There are two provisions which provide leave to employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak: an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and a new federal paid sick leave law.
    Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
    ·         Expanded Coverage and Eligibility – The Act significantly amends and expands FMLA on a temporary basis. The current employee threshold for FMLA coverage would change from only covering employers with 50 or more employees to instead covering those employers with fewer than 500 employees. It also lowers the eligibility requirement such that any employee who has worked for the employer for at least 30 days prior to the designated leave may be eligible to receive paid family and medical leaveAs a result, thousands of employers not previously subject to the FMLA may be required to provide job-protected leave to employees for a COVID-19 coronavirus-designated reason. However, the Act now includes language allowing the Secretary of Labor to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business. 
    • Reasons for Emergency Leave – Any individual employed by the employer for at least 30 days (before the first day of leave) may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to allow an employee, who is unable to work or, to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. This is now the only qualifying need for Emergency FMLA Paid Leave.
    • The first 10 days of Emergency FMLA may be unpaid. During this 10-day period, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued paid leave (like vacation or sick leave) to cover some or all of the 10-day unpaid period. After the 10-day period, the employer generally must pay full-time employees at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled. The Act now limits this pay entitlement to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate per employee. 
    • Calculating Pay for Non-Full Time Employees – Employees who work a part-time or irregular schedule are entitled to be paid based on the average number of hours the employee worked for the six months prior to taking Emergency FMLA. Employees who have worked for less than six months prior to leave are entitled to the employee’s reasonable expectation at hiring of the average number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work. 
    • Job Restoration – Employers with 25 or more employees will have the same obligation as under traditional FMLA to return any employee who has taken Emergency FMLA to the same or equivalent position upon the return to work. However, employers with fewer than 25 employees are generally excluded from this requirement if the employee’s position no longer exists following the Emergency FMLA leave due to an economic downtown or other circumstances caused by a public health emergency during the period of Emergency FMLA. This exclusion is subject to the employer making reasonable attempts to return the employee to an equivalent position and requires an employer to make efforts to return the employee to work for up to a year following the employee’s leave.
    ·         Date of Expiration – This program will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. 
     
    Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
    ·         Reasons for Paid Sick Leave –This Act  allows an eligible employee to take paid sick leave because the employee is: 
    1.   subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; 
    2.   advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; 
    3.   experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis; 
    4.   caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; 
    5.   caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or 
    6.   experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
    Of note, caring for another who is subject to an isolation order or advised to self-quarantine as described above is not limited to just family members.   
    ·         Eligibility – This provision requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full-time employees (regardless of the employee’s duration of employment prior to leave) with 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate (or two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for qualifying reasons 4, 5, or 6 listed above).
    ·         Cap on Paid Sick Leave Wages –Paid sick leave wages are limited to $511 per day up to $5,110 total per employee for their own use and to $200 per day up to $2,000 total to care for others and any other substantially similar condition.
    ·         Carryover and Interaction with Other Paid Leave – This paid sick leave will not carry over to the following year and may be in addition to any paid sick leave currently provided by employers.
    ·         Calculating Rate of Pay – Employees who work a part-time or irregular schedule are entitled to be paid based on the average number of hours the employee worked for the six months prior to taking paid sick leave. Employees who have worked for less than six months prior to leave are entitled to the average number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work over a two-week period.
    ·         Effective Date and Expiration – This program remain in effect until December 31, 2020.
     
    Tax Credits for Paid Sick And Paid Family And Medical Leave
    This section provides a series of refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave described above. These tax credits are allowed against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. While this limits application of the tax credit, employers will be reimbursed if their costs for qualified sick leave or qualified family leave wages exceed the taxes they would owe.
    Specifically, employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter in adherence with the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. The qualified sick leave wages are capped at $511 per day ($200 per day if the leave is for caring for a family member or child) for up to 10 days per employee in each calendar quarter. 
    Similarly, employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified family leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter in accordance with the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. The qualified family leave wages are capped at $200 per day for each individual up to $10,000 total per calendar quarter. Only those employers who are required to offer Emergency FMLA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave may receive these credits.
     
    As you can see, this is a very complicated and extensive law. It is imperative that affected employers fully understand and are in compliance by the effective date of April 2, 2020. 
    Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC
    (Office) 803-481-9533
    (Cell)    803-305-8962
    www.PaulHiltonHR.com

    3/17/2020

    Chamber Members,

    Over the last few weeks as Covid-19 has become the primary topic of discussion in our businesses, our homes and in general conversation I thought about what our role in this should be. I thought about whether we should be a source of updated information but soon realized there are other agencies and organizations that are also sharing updates so there is nothing else we can offer of value. So what can YOUR Chamber of Commerce do in order to help our community get through this and be even better afterward?

    Yesterday morning I participated in a conference call with Ted Pitts of the SC Chamber of Commerce, Governor Henry McMaster, Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC, Superintendent Molly Spearman, Chuck Bundy from Commerce, Dan Elzey from Dept of Workforce and Lou Kennedy from Nehpron Pharmaceuticals. By now you all know the Governor’s decision to limit all restaurants to carry / take out until further notice. I doubt there is much I can share from that conference call that is going to be new to the majority. I have attached those talking points for you to view, if you need additional information. Our community partners are doing everything they can to help update and educate us on what is going on and how we can prepare ourselves. The one thing that we can do that no one else can is to advocate and communicate the needs of our business community so that we all get through this and come out better in the end.

    Earlier today we launched a Facebook page that will allow our area restaurants to share their take out menus to the public and it has exploded with followers in just a few hours. The page is titled “Sumter County Takeout and Delivery Options” so be sure to like and follow the page for great meal options, even if you have to take it home or back to your place of work. There are also other businesses that are not closed that desperately need our help. Many of our locally owned businesses are not regulated by the state so their decision to remain open or close is to their discretion. Those that have decided to remain open are continuing to serve our community to continue some type of normalcy. They are taking the proper steps to ensure that their environment is clean so that you can feel safe while patronizing their business. Keep in mind, always use hand sanitizer regardless of where you have been or who you have been in contact with, it is merely a safe practice.

    Remember all the businesses that we as a community have asked for contributions and donations to our charities, organizations and clubs? They are now asking us for a favor and we MUST answer that call! That is our role during this time, doing whatever we can to let everyone know our businesses are still open even if only by take out or curb side service. These people are our families, our co-workers and our friends. Let’s take care of each other as a community!

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     

     

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