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  • 5/20/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Chamber Testifies at SC House COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee, Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Application Released, Status of SC Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims and Payments

    Coming SoonWebinars For Small Business. The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce will be partnering to host several webinars for Small Businesses. Check out our website soon for all registration information.


    1. Legislative Updates:  SC Chamber Testifies at SC House Committee and Governor Signs Continuing Resolution

    SC Chamber Testifies at SC House Committee:  Monday, SC Chamber President & CEO Ted Pitts testified before the SC House of Representatives COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee. This Committee, Chaired by Representative Jeff Bradley, is looking at best practices and potential legislation that will help reopen the economy and get businesses back on track.

    In his testimony, Ted referenced three steps that the General Assembly should take to move the needle for small businesses in the state:

    1. Reduce the Effects of Unemployment Insurance Costs on Businesses:
      1. Hold Harmless for Layoffs through the End of 2020. Establish that any layoffs resulting from COVID-19 for the entirety of 2020 will not affect a business’s experience rating for unemployment insurance (Note: current SC law allows for this to occur during a state of emergency, but the state of emergency will likely end before the economy begins to recover).
      2. Mitigate Impacts on Businesses from Unemployment Trust Fund Insolvency. The General Assembly should allocate a portion of the $1.9 billion of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money for South Carolina toward supplementing the depleting Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to lessen the tax burden on businesses.
    2. Allow E-Notarization for Business Transactions. Because social distancing has severely restricted physical interactions, small businesses, like financial advisors and real estate agents, have found it incredibly challenging to conduct financial and real estate transactions requiring notarizations. Currently, 23 other states allow e-notarization, and many governors have ordered it by executive order. S.486, which presently resides in a House Judiciary Subcommittee, should be passed as soon as possible to allow businesses that rely on notarizations to continue to conduct business for their clients.
    3. Targeted and Limited Liability Protections. Protect businesses and industries acting in good faith and following federal and state laws and guidelines. Do this by clarifying workers’ compensation exclusivity and barring other liability from exposure or injury related to COVID-19 at a workplace or business absent clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm exists. These protections are needed at the state and federal level to cover potential state and federal claims and should be temporary.

    The Committee also heard from representatives of the SC Farm Bureau, the SC Trucking Association, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and the SC Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA), many of whom advocated for liability protection for businesses as they reopen throughout the state.

    You can find a full video of the committee meeting here.

    Governor Signs Continuing Resolution: Today, Governor Henry McMaster signed H. 3411, the Continuing Resolution, into law. In addition to providing funding for state government at current fiscal year levels and certain immediate needs, this bill also provides that only the General Assembly has the authority to spend the $1.9 billion in CARES Act funding allocated to the state. As a result, the General Assembly will need to return into session soon to ensure they spend funding for critical needs promptly.   

    In a statement addressed to SC Senate President Harvey Peeler and SC House Speaker Jay Lucas announcing that he has signed this critical bill, Governor McMaster noted the urgency associated with the resolution saying:

     “Shortly, based on many of the AccelerateSC recommendations, I will propose to the General Assembly a listing of priorities for appropriating CARES Act funds. These relief funds belong to the people of South Carolina, not politicians, and we must deliver them to where they are needed. Consideration for their appropriation must be done expeditiously – but also wisely, transparently, and with meticulous accountability. To that end – I ask that you call the General Assembly back into session soon after receiving these recommendations. Any delay will cost the people of our state the one thing they don’t have – time.”


    2. Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Application Released-Webinar with Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd Scheduled

    As mentioned previously, recent guidance from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) clarified that businesses receiving a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan below $2 million are eligible for a safe harbor that deems they are making the loan request in good faith.

    To recap: Loans below $2 million will not be subject to further review. While borrowers with loans greater than $2 million “may still have an adequate basis” for applying for a PPP loan based on their circumstances, but they will be subject to SBA review to determine the necessity of the loan request.

    On Friday last week, the SBA and the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released the PPP loan forgiveness application, which includes detailed instructions on how to complete the application. In addition to guiding how to fill out the form, the application clarifies many frequently asked questions about loan forgiveness, including:

    • What Constitutes Covered Payroll Costs
    • What Constitutes Covered Non-Payroll Costs
    • Required Documentation

    The new instructions also add an exemption for loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good faith effort to rehire employees, assuming the borrower can show written proof the job was offered and declined.


    3. Status of SC Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims and Payments

    Newly released data from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) puts into perspective the current unemployment situation, comparing it to the period leading up to COVID-19 and to the last major economic crisis in 2009.

    In early March of this year, before the state started seeing severe impacts from COVID-19, one of the biggest problems was finding employees for employers. The state had a 2.6% unemployment rate, about 2,100 initial claims filed per week, 2.3 million people employed, and about 61,900 unemployed.

    As the chart below reflects, since the pandemic started impacting South Carolina in mid-March of this year, the pattern has been dramatically different than 2009. Whereas the initial claims per week followed a linear pattern during the Great Recession, the state saw a drastic increase in claims immediately following the initial COVID-19 impact, and the number of applications continued to go up for four more weeks – with a peak in claims occurring the week ending April 11th. Since that time, the number of initial claims has been falling off. Even so, the number of applications for the week ending May 9th is over three times higher than claims during the same week in 2009.

    In terms of the amount paid out so far during the COVID-19 crisis, South Carolina has paid $306.7 million in regular state UI benefits. The federal government has paid $752.9 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (extra $600 per week) and $48.0 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (benefits for independent contractors, self-employed, gig workers, etc.) to South Carolinians. This total adds up to $1.108 billion paid in UI benefits to South Carolinians since the onset of the crisis.

    The SC Chamber and local Chambers of Commerce are working with DEW to monitor the impacts on the UI Trust Fund and implications for businesses moving forward, including lessening the tax burden on businesses resulting from the depletion of the trust fund.


    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions or call our Small Business Hotline at 803-774-2402.

    5/15/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Chamber and Local Chambers Roll-Out Liability Recommendations at accelerateSC Response Subcommittee, Governor McMaster Addresses Local Chamber Committee, Federal Actions Update, Greater Sumter Chamber Wins Best Networking Organization


    1. SC Chamber and Partners Roll-Out Liability Recommendations at accelerateSC Response Subcommittee

    Wednesday in the accelerateSC Response Subcommittee meeting, several businesses and healthcare industry groups announced recommendations for the state to consider to protect businesses from liability as more businesses start reopening. These recommendations were submitted by the SC Chamber, the SC Manufacturers Alliance, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Medical Association, and the SC Retail Association.

    Chambers of Commerce in South Carolina are jointly supporting targeted and limited liability safeguards to include:

    • Safe Harbor: Temporary and limited immunity from liability is needed to protect a business or industry from a person alleging exposure to COVID-19 if it followed public health guidance at the time. The standard of care should be a reasonable attempt to comply with public health guidance at the time.
      • The safe harbor should begin at the start of the pandemic and should be valid only to the end of the pandemic or the end of 2022, whichever is earlier.
    • No Protection for Bad Actors: The protection should not apply if the conduct is intentional or reckless, and the employer did not reasonably attempt to follow public health guidance.
    • Products Liability: A limited and temporary safe harbor from liability for manufacturers making PPE is needed, except for an injury that results from reckless or intentional conduct.
    • Workers’ Compensation Claims: Need to clarify that on-the-job claims of exposure to COVID-19 by employees are exclusive to the workers’ compensation system and should not go to civil court.

    They also emphasized that these protections are needed sooner rather than later. The filing of lawsuits is happening around the country, and recent stats* show:

    • About 430 COVID-19 related lawsuits filed against businesses and industries around the country and this number is growing every week
    • 18 Governors have issued executive orders to provide liability protections
    • 9 States have passed a liability protection bill
    • 6 States have bills pending

    *Source: US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform 

    The Greater Sumter Chamber and over 50 state and local partners previously sent a letter to the members of the South Carolina Federal Delegation, urging their support for legislation that will protect businesses as the state begins to reopen. The Senate Judiciary Committee, Chaired by US Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham, met on Tuesday and took testimony on this issue, as you will read in detail below.


    2. Governor McMaster Addresses the Chamber Partnership Committee

    Governor McMaster joined Local Chambers of Commerce Thursday morning to speak with local and regional chamber executives. About once a quarter, the SC Chamber convenes this group so the members can collaborate and share best practices.

    The Governor shared his take on how the state was faring amid COVID-19 and his insights moving forward. Key items discussed include:

    • SC being hailed nationally by Dr. Anthony Fauci as a model for the country in COVID-19 response.
    • The Governor will continue with his measured, deliberative approach to responding to the virus – he hopes to lift many of the remaining restrictions very soon.
    • Many of the businesses that are closed are closed due to their own decision (supply chain, safety concerns, etc.) and not forced to close by the state.
    • SC will be receiving $1.9 billion from the federal government for COVID-19-related costs – the Governor is working with the legislature to determine where the funds are most needed and will be most effective.
    • The key to opening back up and getting public confidence back will be a vigorous testing and tracing protocol.
    • accelerateSC will be guiding specific business types (find those released already here) as well as guidance for resuming fairs and festivals – the date on which those can start is still TBD. Still, the Governor is hoping we will be closer to normal in July than we are now.
    • They did not determine the resumption of in-person classes for students at this time, but Superintendent Molly Spearman is working with a task force to make some of those decisions.
    • The Governor expects both the federal and state governments to work on liability protections for businesses – Chamber leaders should remain in touch with their representatives to urge them to get a bill passed this summer.

    In addition to hearing from the Governor, the group also received an overview of the SC Chamber’sRelief and Recovery Agenda for SC Businesses and discussed recent legislative updates.  


    3. Federal Actions Update: Liability Protections, Paycheck Protection

    US Senate Judiciary Committee Holds First Meeting to Examine Liability Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic:

    • On Tuesday this week, the US Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by US Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham, met to discuss liability issues and heard testimony from business owners around the country as well as from SC’s own Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston.
      • Hill testified, “…we are seeking liability protections for businesses that are limited, temporary and put in place immediately. Protections should be limited to American businesses that are reopening in accordance with health and safety guidance and acting in good faith. These measures should be temporary to protect responsible businesses from frivolous lawsuits during this pandemic and through a period of economic recovery. And importantly, these measures must be put in place immediately.”
    • While the committee did not reach an agreement on any legislation in this first meeting, we expect these conversations to continue. We will continue to encourage the federal government to act quickly.
    • As mentioned in the section above, the SC Chamber and 56 other associations and local chambers sent a letter to the SC Federal Delegation last week to ask for rational, targeted, and limited liability protections.

    Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Update:

    Last month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it would be reviewing all PPP loans over $2 million to ensure PPP loans are limited to eligible borrowers (i.e., those who need it). This review would follow the lender’s submission of the borrower’s loan forgiveness application. That announcement stated that guidance was forthcoming.  

    Yesterday, the SBA issued that guidance via the updated PPP FAQ document. Question 46 clarifies that under the new guidance:

    • Businesses receiving PPP loans of less than $2 million will be eligible for a safe harbor that deems they are making the loan request in good faith; as such, loans below $2 million will not be subject to further review. 
    • Borrowers with loans greater than $2 million “may still have an adequate basis” for applying for a PPP loan based on their circumstances, but they will be subject to SBA review to determine the necessity of the loan request. If the review concludes that the applicant should not have received PPP funds, the SBA will seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan balance and will inform the lender that the borrower is not eligible for loan forgiveness.

    4. Greater Sumter Chamber recognized as Best Networking Organization

    Last night the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce was recognized as the Best Networking Organization during the “Best of Sumter” virtual ceremony hosted by The Sumter Item. This marks the third straight year our Chamber has received this honor. Although networking is just a part of what our Chamber of Commerce does for our community, we are grateful for the honor. Congratulations to all the winners that were recognized during the ceremony.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our COVID-19 Website. Don’t forget about our Small Business Hotline for any questions regarding this pandemic and how it will affect your business.

    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 here with questions.


    5/8/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Chamber Sends Letter to Federal Delegation Urging Liability ProtectionsDSS Supporting Increased Childcare Services for Essential WorkersDEW Creates “Recall Taskforce.”

    ICYMI: Media Reports of SC Chamber Release of Final Survey Results:


    1. Greater Sumter Chamber partners with SC Chamber to send Letter to Federal Delegation Urging Liability Protections

    Yesterday, the SC Chamber and over 50 state and local partners including the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the members of the South Carolina Federal Delegation, urging their support for legislation that will protect businesses as the state begins to reopen.

    Constantly evolving guidance at the federal and state level has confused issues like cleaning a worksite and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers and professionals doing their best to control the spread of this disease responsibly with the limited guidance available deserve legal protection.

    The letter asks explicitly that our federal delegation members support legislation with these measures:

    • Provide limited and rational safe harbors for good actors to help ensure that critical needs are met, and employers are not punished when following federal and state guidelines.
    • Expand the scope of the PREP Act, designed to address product and volunteer liability issues, to provide protections for companies that may not typically produce PPE to do so to serve front line health care workers, and meet the demand for PPE to protect the public.
    • Recognize the value of new safety regulation as a far better alternative to one-off lawsuits to give businesses more precise expectations on how to manage a safe workplace.
    • Provide employers with a safe harbor for collecting and exchanging critical information related to employees’ health status and for implementing reasonable measures such as temperature checks to combat workplace transmission of COVID-19.
    • Temporarily suspend suits that threaten to shut down industries—including health care providers, a sensible step to ensure every American has access to basic life essentials without creating new shortages and exacerbating the crisis.

    US Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and announced that the committee would hold a hearing on Tuesday to discuss legal liability issues related to COVID-19. We are appreciative of his prompt attention to this issue.


    2. DSS Supporting Increased Childcare Services for Essential Workers

    The SC Department of Social Services (DSS) is the state agency that regulates childcare providers in South Carolina. DSS is actively working to aid centers in reopening; sourcing items providers need to reopen like disinfecting and cleaning products, communicating with childcare providers to support their decision making about whether to continue operating and providing guidance on modifying practices to minimize the risk of exposure.

    Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no Executive Orders by Governor McMaster mandating the closure of childcare centers in the state. Even so, as of noon today,1,198 childcare centers have voluntarily chosen to close – this equates to 50% of all licensed childcare facilities in the state. This number is down from the highest closure number, which was 1,288 childcare centers that had voluntarily chosen to close, as of 4/13/2020.

    As a reminder, a recent SC Chamber Survey showed that when asked about the biggest challenges for business, 16.8% of respondents stated lack of childcare for employee/associate dependents as part of their current problem.  Another question asked about was what companies need to get up and running – 14.8% of respondents replied that they need more availability of childcare services.

    As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, DSS is deploying three initial phases of assistance for first responders, essential personnel, and childcare centers:

    • Phase 1: DSS is offering childcare for those engaged in providing essential services (health care workers, first responders, commercial transport, critical state government operations, childcare providers); individuals involved in making sure the public has access to essential services (food, water, gas, utilities, sanitation, medical, childcare); and critical infrastructure operations (communications, national guard mobilization, transportation).
      • To qualify, you must be currently working at an essential business, you must need childcare so you may continue to work, and you must complete a childcare application.
      • You do not have to meet any income guidelines for this limited program.
      • They will provide this category of childcare from the point of approval through August 30, 2020.
      • More information is available at: https://scchildcare.org/news-and-announcements/covid-19-
      • DSS will continue taking applications through 5 pm tomorrow.
    • Phase 2: A one-time cleaning and sanitation grant was made available to licensed or registered childcare providers.
      • DSS is still accepting applications for these cleaning grants. The application information and form are on the scchildcare.org website, and childcare providers were sent via email on 4/21/20.
    • Phase 3: DSS is also developing an application and delivery mechanism to deploy larger grants to childcare centers with funding provided through the CARES Act. DSS is finalizing implementation details now and anticipates a mid-May availability announcement.

    Click here to read DSS’s update in full.


    3. DEW Creates “Recall Taskforce”

    Yesterday, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced that it had created a “Recall Taskforce” to help employers understand the different federal funding programs available to their workforce. This help includes the eligibility requirements of each program, as well as help navigating situations in which an employee refuses an offer of work.

    The Recall Taskforce wants businesses who are reopening to know that their employees cannot refuse an offer for work without good cause and remain on unemployment insurance. If an individual refuses to return to work or refuses an offer of employment, businesses should contact DEW. After the appropriate level of due process, individuals receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits may lose their UI benefits if they refuse to return to work or accept an offer of new employment without good cause. Employers can:

    • Notify DEW through the employer self-service portal OR
    • Complete and submit the Offer of Work Form (UCB-261)

    Employers who have ten or more employees refusing to return to work should contact DEW at Recall_Taskforce@dew.sc.gov. The agency will be able to provide an Offer of Work spreadsheet that allows you to submit the required information in a convenient, user-friendly format.

    The agency also released updated unemployment numbers today:

    • For the week ending May 2, 46,747 people filed an initial claim.
    • This is a decrease of 18,412 initial claims from the week prior.
    • This is the third decrease recorded since mid-March.
    • In the last seven weeks, the total number of initial claims received is 453,636.
    • The agency has paid more than $831 million in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and CARES Act programs.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions.

    5/6/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Chamber Releases Final COVID-19 Business Survey Results, accelerateSC Task Force Holds Second Meeting, Greater Sumter Webinar Series


    1. SC Chamber Releases Final COVID-19 Business Survey Results

    Yesterday, the SC Chamber of Commerce released the final results of its COVID-19 Business Survey. Almost 4,500 businesses from nearly all sectors and representing all sizes responded to the survey, which was open from April 23rd to May 3rd. Nearly seven of ten of the responses came from small businesses. Additionally, last week the Greater Sumter Chamber released it’s Community Guide to Re-Open Sumter. You can view the document here.  

    “The results of this survey clearly show that our businesses are hurting and need for us to take quick action to get them back on track,” said Pitts. “Governor McMaster lifting the Home-or-Work Order will go a long way toward helping them get back up to operational status, but we must continue to keep the focus on reopening the economy safely for our businesses and employees.”

    High points from the survey include:

    • About half of the responses indicate that lack of demand is the biggest challenge for businesses; the next most significant problem is the ability to cover payroll (about 38%).
    • Over 40% of businesses have had to lay-off or furlough employees; nearly 3 in 5 businesses have not had to lay-off or furlough employees.
    • Almost 90% of businesses who responded they have had to lay-off/furlough employees plan to bring at least 50% of those employees back within three months.
    • 40% of businesses have implemented or are considering implementing a pay cut for employees due to COVID-19.
    • Almost two-thirds of businesses are concerned about workplace safety liability (OSHA/Workers Compensation) and premises liability (exposure to customers).
    • At least 37% of respondents have received some kind of federal COVID-19-related relief (Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, etc.). Almost 30% have been denied or are still waiting on an answer.
    • About half of businesses are operating with the partial continuation of sale and delivery of services/products using alternative approaches; close to 3 in 10 businesses are unable to sell services/products during the Stay-at-Home or Work Order and closure of non-essential business orders.
    • Half of the businesses need for all of the Governor’s Orders, including the Stay-at-Home or Work Order (which has lifted since the survey closed) to be lifted to restart and bring employees back full-time.
    • Close to 4 in 5 businesses anticipate placing a heightened focus for the next six to 12 months around employee handwashing, distancing, not allowing employees at work if sick or running a fever, and additional cleaning and disinfecting of the workplace as they begin to restart or ramp up business.

    Click here to view the results in entirety.

    Using these results and other feedback from our business members, the SC Chamber is developing a “Relief and Recovery Agenda for SC Businesses,” which will we will unveil later this week.


    2. accelerateSC Task Force Holds Second Meeting

    This afternoon, the full accelerateSC Task Force met for the second time to discuss the work of the five subcommittees: Response, Protection, Governance, Resources, and Information.

    A resounding theme from all of the subcommittees was the need for increased broadband access and availability. As mentioned by former SC Chamber Chair Lou Kennedy, the SC Chamber has been working with a coalition of stakeholders since last fall on this issue and included it as part of its 2020 Competitiveness Agenda. Below are a few issues we have been monitoring since the COVID-19 crisis began and which the accelerateSC Task Force echoed today: The Greater Sumter Chamber Community Guide mentioned above was presented to the accelerateSC Task Force last week.

    • Education
      • School districts are using three methods to deliver instruction, and only just over a quarter of our students is using eLearning purely:
      • eLearning: 28% of students & 19 districts
      • Paper packets: 8% of students & 17 districts
      • Blended (mix of eLearning & paper packets): 63% of students & 45 districts
    • Telehealth
      • With people reluctant to seek routine care in person, the spotlight is on telehealth. For these visits to be possible, the patient has to have sufficient internet service to conduct virtual visits with their healthcare provider.
    • Maps
      • The SC Hospital Association (SCHA), the SC Office of Rural Health (ORH), and Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) have now made their broadband maps public here
    • Federal Infrastructure Bill
      • There is the possibility of significant funding for broadband either in the Phase 4 coronavirus legislation OR in a separate infrastructure bill.

    The Governor also unveiled a new one-stop-shop website for COVID-19-related resources and information: https://accelerate.sc.gov. This site is managed by the SC Department of Administration and designed to connect citizens with critical resources like “How to file for unemployment” and guidance regarding personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.


    3. Greater Sumter Chamber Webinar Series: New Offerings This Week

    This week, the Greater Sumter Chamber will host two webinars to help members navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and the ever-changing business environment.

    State Response to COVID-19 / Future legislation:

    • Date: Tuesday, May 5, 11:00 am ET
    • Presenters: Rep. Murrell Smith, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Sen. Thomas McElveen represented the Sumter delegation. Chris Hardy, President & CEO of the Chamber, moderated the webinar.
    • Description: This webinar focused on the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional information was provided regarding legislation that will be addressed when the general assembly re-convenes next week. Click here to view the full webinar.

    Federal Response to COVID-19:

    • Date: Wednesday, May 6, 11:00 am ET
    • Presenters: Congressman Ralph Norman
    • Description: We will be discussing with Congressman Norman the Federal Response to COVID-19 and how it has impacted Sumter and what we can expect on the Federal level in the coming months.
    • Registration: Spots are limited; you must register in advance here.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions.

    5/4/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Governor to Lift Home-or-Work Order – Allow Outdoor Dining on Monday, SC Legislature Coming Back Into Session May 12th, CDC Issues New Reopening Guidance for Businesses, Re-Open Sumter Guide, Zoom Webinar Series


    1. SC Governor to Lift Home or Work Order and Allow Outdoor Dining on Monday

    In a press conference this afternoon, Governor McMaster announced that he would be lifting the Home-or-Work Order for South Carolinians beginning at 12:01 am on Monday, May 4th. At that time, the order will become voluntary, and the Governor asked all citizens to continue to practice safe social distancing and follow previous prevention recommendations.

    Also, restaurants will be allowed to offer outdoor dining services at restaurants beginning on Monday. The Greater Sumter Chamber will be updating the restaurant guide on our Facebook page Sumter, SC Eat, Dine & Shop Local to show those restaurants with outdoor seating

    The Governor also rescinded two executive orders, effective immediately:

    • Executive Order 2020-14: individuals traveling to South Carolina from CDC-identified “Hotspots” will no longer require self-quarantine for two weeks.
    • Executive Order 2020-19: short term rentals, vacation rentals, and other lodging accommodations will be allowed to accept new reservations from individuals traveling from CDC-identified “Hotspots.”

    For restaurants seeking to begin outdoor service, Governor McMaster released the following guidelines, provided by the SC Restaurant and Lodging Association (SCRLA):

    • Existing approved outdoor seating areas:
      • Tables are to be spaced a minimum of 8 feet from each other (measured from all edges of the table);
      • Limit table groups to 8 individuals;
      • Eliminate gatherings in the building when entering or exiting outdoor seating area;
      • Maintain strict social/physical distancing guidelines;
      • Sanitize tables, chairs, and seats after every customer
    • If existing, permitted restaurants utilize open areas and temporary tents, all sides of the tent must be open, and the following conditions are required:
      • Tables are to be spaced a minimum of 8 feet from each other (measured from all edges of the table);
      • Table groups are to be limited to 8 individuals;
      • State-approved fire extinguisher within 75 feet of tent area;
      • Minimum of 7-foot-6 inch headroom (ceiling height)

    SC Chamber President and CEO Ted Pitts praised the Governor’s announcement stating, “It is time to get SC safely back to work and put our economy back on track. While we need for vulnerable populations to take the appropriate precautions and for everyone to use common sense, the business community is supportive of the Governor’s decision to get started gradually reopening our economy.”

    These decisions came as SC State Epidemiologist Linda Bell stated that the data reveals that the state may have plateaued or “flattened the curve” in terms of the number of new COVID-19 cases.


    2. SC Legislature Coming Back Into Session May 12th

    Thursday, SC House Speaker Jay Lucas and SC Senate President Harvey Peeler issued letters calling the House and Senate back into regular session on Tuesday, May 12th. They expect to be in session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that week.

    The original last day of session was May 14th at 5:00 pm, after which legislators could ONLY meet to take up items listed explicitly in a Sine Die resolution (if passed). However, Speaker Lucas and President Peeler announced their intent to invoke provisions of Section 2-1-180(b) if needed, which allows them to extend the regular session by two weeks, making the new last day of session May 28th.

    When they return, it is expected the General Assembly will work on two items at a minimum:

    • Continuing Resolution: extends funding for state government at current fiscal year levels until the General Assembly can return to pass a new budget. This resolution is needed because the General Assembly is not likely to be able to pass a new state budget before the fiscal year ends on June 30th.
      • The House passed its version of the continuing resolution, H.3485, and the Senate passed its version H.3411, but they will have to agree on one version for the bill to become law.
    • Sine Die Resolution: extends the legislative session past the date on which regular legislative work ends on May 14th [or May 28th if they invoke Section 2-1-180(b)]. The Sine Die Resolution will specify when the General Assembly will return, and what specific bills it debates.
      • The Senate has already passed a version of the Sine Die resolution, S.1194

    They MAY also take up other pieces of legislation – but that has not been specified at this point.


    3. CDC Issues New Reopening Guidance for Businesses

    As states begin the process of reopening, many businesses have reached out for clarification on how best to clean and prepare their spaces for operations. On Wednesday last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new “Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes.”

    The general framework provided in this document recommends:

    1. Routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.
    2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk. Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is essential.
    3. When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products--this can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children.

    Some other top-level items in the guidance include:

    • Some surfaces only need to be cleaned with soap and water, including surfaces NOT frequently touched, and items handled by children.
    • Outdoor areas generally require routine cleaning and do not require disinfection.
      • The targeted use of disinfectants can be done effectively, efficiently, and safely on outdoor hard surfaces and objects frequently touched by multiple people. Certain outdoor areas and facilities, such as bars and restaurants, may have additional requirements.
    • If your workplace, school, or business has been unoccupied for seven days or more, it will only need your routine cleaning to reopen the area.
    • Examples of frequently touched surfaces and objects that will need routine disinfection following reopening are:
      • tables,
      • doorknobs,
      • light switches,
      • countertops,
      • handles,
      • desks,
      • phones,
      • keyboards,
      • toilets,
      • faucets and sinks,
      • gas pump handles,
      • touch screens, and
      • ATMs

    The CDC also published a two-page “Cleaning & Disinfecting Decision Tool” to further clarify the recommendations for specific surfaces and spaces.

    Last week the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce published our Re-Open Sumter Safely community guide based on feedback we received from our survey. You can view and download the guide here.


    The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce will be hosting two zoom conference calls to discuss the state and federal response to COVID-19 among other pieces of legislation. On Tuesday, May 5 at 11am the Chamber will host Rep. Murrell Smith and Sen. Thomas McElveen to discuss the state response along with other important issues to our community. You must register here to receive the login credentials. We are accepting questions prior to the conference call and you may submit your questions here.

    On Wednesday, May 6 at 11am the Chamber will host Congressman Ralph Norman to discuss the federal response thus far to COVID-19 and any future responses. You must register here to receive the login credentials and you can submit your questions here prior to the call.

    These and other resources for businesses are available here.

    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 here with questions. Also, don’t forget about our Small Business Hotline for any of you questions or concerns. Call 803-774-2402.

    4/30/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Chamber Organizes Working Groups to Develop Employer Liability Protection Recommendations, accelerateSC Response Subcommittee Meets for First Time, Last Call for COVID-19 Business Survey, Chamber Community Guide


    1. SC Chamber Organizes Working Groups to Develop Employer Liability Protection Recommendations

    Legal Working Groups: The SC Chamber is coordinating with the SC Manufacturers Alliance, the SC Retailers Association, the SC Hospital Association, and the SC Medical Association on developing a list of actions and legislative recommendations to limit liability risks related to COVID-19. Members of the SC Chamber’s Legal Committee have identified legal experts within their law firms to draft recommendations and develop best practices for businesses. The attorneys are focused on COVID-19 issues related to workplace safety/OSHA issues, employment liability, premises liability, workers compensation, product liability for manufacturers transitioning to making PPE, and medical and healthcare liability.

    In the coming days, SC Chamber will ask Governor McMaster and accelerateSC to consider and act on our recommendations. Some of our recommendations will require legislative action; as such, we will call for the Governor to bring the SC General Assembly into session as soon as it is safe to consider critical COVID-19 legislation to help businesses, including liability protections. 

    Federal Action: The SC Chamber has communicated our concerns about the high risks of legal liability related to COVID-19 to our federal delegation. We are pleased to see that US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making this issue a priority in the next coronavirus bill, which we expect will provide additional funding to state and local governments.  

    “You have to carefully craft the liability protection to deal with the money that would be supplied to state and local governments conditioned upon them enacting at the state level the kind of legislation that would provide liability protection for those that are seeking to go forward and get the economy back to work,” McConnell said.


    2. accelerateSC Response Subcommittee Meets for the First Time

    The Response Subcommittee of the accelerateSC Task Force met for the first time yesterday to discuss many of the COVID-19 issues affecting business and how we start to move the state forward safely and sustainably. The committee’s stated goal is to identify challenges related to workforce capacity, workforce re-entry, critical industries, capital requirements, regulatory issues, and supply chain/logistics. Members include representatives of business associations, private businesses, as well as several government agencies. The full accelerateSC Task Force met for the first time last Thursday.

    Items on yesterday’s meeting agenda included (1) safety protocols/reopening guidelines, (2) access to PPE, (3) workforce concerns to cover childcare, recall resistance, persistent unemployment, and online training opportunities.

    Discussion of these topics included items that we have heard from our SC Chamber policy committees persistently over the last few days like:

    • Establishing best practices and guidelines for businesses to reopen while keeping their employees and customers healthy
    • Liability concerns for businesses as they get back to work
      • Senator Lindsey Graham noted that Senator Mitch McConnell had made liability issues a priority in the Federal Phase 4 bill
    • PPE availability and the possibility of the state purchasing large quantities of PPE
      • A working group is being formed that will dig into this 
    • Childcare
      • 52% of certified childcare facilities have voluntarily shut down
      • Lou Kennedy, CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals and past chair of the SC Chamber explained how Nephron had created a childcare program for their employees
    • Recall resistance
      • Director Dan Ellezy re-emphasized that an employee who refuses to return to a job after being offered their job back cannot continue to receive state or federal unemployment benefits

    Also, SC Chamber President and CEO Ted Pitts presented preliminary results from the SC Chamber’s acceleratescCOVID19 Business Survey. Read more here.

    The next meeting will be next Tuesday, and the Governor said he expected the entire group’s work to be done within 30 days.


    3. Last Call for COVID-19 Business Survey

    The SC Chamber and SC Department of Commerce developed a survey to assist the accelerateSC task force by giving members critically needed data to make important decisions during the next 30 days. We value your input and ask that you please take 5 minutes to answer the survey. It will remain open until Friday, May 1st


    4. Chamber Community Guide

    Later today the Chamber will be presenting the “Re-Open Sumter” community guide. This guide is a culmination of feedback we received from our survey results along with other information we have received from our state and federal associations. We encourage everyone to use this guide as a resource to help you and your business safely and effectively open to the public. Some of the information in the guide comes from feedback we have received from the SC Chamber of Commerce, the Carolina’s Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the US Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and other partners.

    This guide was designed to help our business community, especially small businesses, to incorporate best practices relating to employee and consumer safety. We trust this guide will be valuable over the next several months as we join together to keep pushing our economy forward. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at 803-775-1231.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our COVID-19 website.

    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 questions.

    4/29/2020

    Chamber Members,

    We just received this press release from the Small Business Administration in relation to the Payroll Protection Program. This is great news for many of our small businesses in Sumter.

    Special Announcement On The PPP From The Small Business Administration

    Ashley D. Bell, SBA Regional Administrator and Entrepreneurship Policy Advisor for the White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council made the following statement today:

     “I am encouraged to see continued progress when it comes to recovery efforts being put forth to help small, underserved, and minority entrepreneurs through this time of crisis.”

    “The SBA and Treasury are working together to assure fairness in the PPP and they will, together, evaluate whether to create a similar reserved time again in the future.

    “Lending institutions with asset sizes less than $1 billion will still be able to submit PPP loans outside of this time frame and lenders with asset sizes greater than $1 billion will be able to submit loans outside of today’s 4 p.m. -11:59pm EDT reserved processing time.

    “I am proud to share that beginning today at 4 p.m. through 11:59 p.m., SBA systems will only accept loans from lending institutions with asset sizes less than $1 billion dollars.  This is to assure that small lending institutions are provided the opportunity to lend to small businesses providing increased opportunity for many entrepreneurs.

    4/23/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: US Senate Passes Additional Funds for PPP, Governor McMaster Closes Schools for Remainder of School Year, Updates for our Manufacturing Member, Chamber Initiatives


    1. US Senate Passes Additional Funds for PPP

    US Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached a deal and added additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The package, passed yesterday in the Senate by a voice vote, allocates over $480 billion total including funding for:

    • $310 Billion for PPP
      • $30 Billion set aside for loans made by federally insured lenders with assets between $10 billion and $50 billion
      • $30 Billion set aside for loans made by community financial institutions and small federally insured banks and credit unions with assets under $10 billion
    • $60 Billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
    • $75 Billion Hospital assistance
    • $25 Billion COVID-19 testing
      • $11 Billion for states and municipalities
      • $1 Billion to cover costs for testing individuals without health insurance
      • $1 Billion for the CDC

    The US House is expected to vote on this today with no expected changes being made.


    2. Governor McMaster Closes Schools for Remainer of School Year

    In a press conference yesterday, Governor McMaster and SC Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced that schools would close for the remainder of the school year. The Governor will issue an executive order next week that will lay out all of the exact details, but in their remarks, Governor McMaster and Superintendent Spearman noted the following:

    • School districts will be allowed some flexibility when it comes to end-of-year activities, including graduation ceremonies, end-of-year counseling, textbook/supply return, and the pickup of personal belongings.
    • The districts’ regular calendar will determine the last day of instruction.
    • Decisions to determine the format of summer school and summer reading camps – if reading camps cannot be conducted in-person, the State Department of Education (SDE) is making plans for virtual delivery.
    • The SDE is forming a task force to make plans for returning to school in August.
    • The Accelerate SC Task Force will discuss childcare issues related to parents returning to work while children remain out of school.
    • One of the biggest challenges during this time has been the “digital divide” – some schools were able to transition immediately to a 100% online delivery system, some have adopted a blended delivery system (a combination of online and pencil and paper). Others have to rely on an all pencil and paper system.
      • Superintendent Spearman noted that some of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for school districts can go toward technology in schools.

    3. Updates for Our Manufacturing Members

    White House Defers Some Tariffs for Hard-Hit Companies: In an executive order announced on Sunday, President Trump deferred some tariffs, taxes, and fees for businesses that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Shortly after that, Customs and Border Protection and the Treasury Department (Treasury) issued a temporary final rule which allows companies to postpone certain payments on merchandise imported during March and April for 90 calendar days from the original due date.

    The US Chamber of Commerce applauded the decision. Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant said:

    “Providing some temporary tariff relief will help American businesses make payroll and retain employees in the coming weeks. With the current economic downturn, liquidity has become one of the top challenges for businesses of all sizes. Allowing US companies to defer some tariff payments — like the tax relief provided in the CARES Act — will alleviate some of that strain.”

    The order does not apply to all tariffs. It excludes changes to antidumping and countervailing duties and tariffs under sections 201, 232 and 301 of the trade code, The goal of this deferral is to help companies relying heavily on imports get through the next several months until the economy is on its way to getting back up and running.

    OSHA Issues Safety Tips for Manufacturing Employers: Last week, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new alert with recommendations about how to keep manufacturers safe.

    The safety tips for employers to help protect manufacturing workers from exposure to COVID-19 include the following:

    • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
    • Establish flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), if feasible.
    • Practice sensible social distancing and maintain six feet between co-workers, where possible.
    • For work activities where social distancing is a challenge, consider limiting the duration of these activities and implementing innovative approaches, such as temporarily moving or repositioning workstations to create more distance or installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.
    • Monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations for the workplace and ensure that workers have access to and understand that information.
    • Train workers on how to correctly put on, use/wear, take-off, and maintain protective clothing and equipment.
    • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of the virus.
    • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
    • Discourage workers from using other workers’ tools and equipment.
    • Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.
    • Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Provide disinfectants, and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces.
    • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

    The alert is available for download here.


    4. Chamber Initiatives

    The Chamber of Commerce has issued a survey to “Help Us Re-Open Sumter”. Please provide your feedback and complete the survey here. Sunday, April 26 will be the final day to complete the survey. Next week we will begin compiling the information and developing a guideline to help businesses safely re-open and move our economy forward.

    Today the Chamber of Commerce will host a Virtual Business After Hours at 5:30pm. During this program we will discuss the Chamber’s efforts during this pandemic along with our plans for help Sumter to re-open. This is a great opportunity to socialize while continuing best social distancing protocols. There is no charge for this program though registration is required in order to receive the Zoom access credentials. Register here now.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions.

    4/22/2020

    Chamber Members,

    Below is a breakdown of the additional funds provided through the CARES Act and the Payroll Protection Program yesterday.

    Paycheck Protection Program & Health Care Enhancement Act (“Coronavirus 3.5”)                                                                                          

    • An additional $321 billion for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program
    • An additional $10 billion for the SBA Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
    • An additional $50 billion for SBA 7(b) Disaster Loans
    • An additional $75 billion for hospitals and healthcare providers
    • $25 billion for COVID testing

    Paycheck Protection Program

    $321 billion (in addition to $349 billion from the CARES Act)

    • Sets aside $30 billion of the appropriation for loans from:
      • Banks with $10 billion to $50 billion in consolidated assets and
      • Credit Unions with $10 billion to $50 billion in consolidated assets
    • Sets aside $30 billion of the appropriation for loans from:
      • Community Financial Institutions (see definition below),
      • Banks with less than $10 billion in consolidated asset, and
      • Credit Unions with less than $10 billion in consolidated assets
    • Defines “Community Financial Institutions” as:
      • Community Development Financial Institutions as defined by section 103(5) of the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994 (42 USC 4702(5))[1],
      • A minority depository institution as defined by Section 308 of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (12 USC 1463 note)[2], and
      • A development company certified under Title V of Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 USC 695)[3]

    Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund

    $75 billion (in addition to $100 billion from the CARES Act)

    • Terms are the same as the CARES Act
    • HHS to allocate funds to eligible health care providers, including Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, private hospitals, public hospitals, and community health centers
    • Funds can be used for construction or leasing of temporary facilities, medical supplies and PPE, increased workforce and training, emergency operations centers, and surge capacity

    Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund

    $25 billion to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests

    • $11 billion to states
      • $2 billion allocated to states and localities according to the 2019 formula for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement
      • $4.25 billion allocated to states and localities based on relative number of COVID-19 cases,
      • $750 million allocated to tribes
      • States and localities must submit COVID-19 testing plans to HHS within 30 days of enactment including goals for number of month-by-month tests, laboratory capacity, and community mitigation
    • $1 billion to CDC for surveillance, epidemiology, lab expansion, contact tracing, public health data surveillance, and analytics infrastructure modernization
    • $1.8 billion to NIH research and development
    • $1 billion to Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for research and development
    • $825 million for community health centers (in addition to CARES Act and Supplemental Appropriation Act funding)
    • $1 billion to cover the cost of testing uninsured  people

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     


    4/21/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,


    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: Governor McMaster Announces “Accelerate SC” Task Force, US Senate Close To Deal on Additional PPP Funding, ICYMI: Call with US Senator Lindsey Graham Recap, Virtual Business after Hours


    1. Governor McMaster Announces “Accelerate SC” Task Force – Ted Pitts to Serve

    Accelerate SC Task Force: In a press conference this afternoon, Governor McMaster announced the formation and membership of the economic revitalization task force called “Accelerate SC.” Revised estimates now predict that the peak of new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina was on April 15 and the peak in deaths was April 9. The Accelerate SC task force will develop a plan to move South Carolina toward a phased-in revitalization path as healthcare data indicates it is safe and appropriate to do so.

    Accelerate SC includes representatives from various business and industry sectors. For a full list of members, click here. The plan will consist of five categories: Response, Protection, Governance, Resources, and Information. The group’s first meeting will be on Thursday of this week – details TBD.

    New Executive Order: Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-28, which reopens public beaches and waterways effective Today, April 21st at 12:00 pm, allowing local governments to decide whether to close beaches within their jurisdictions. The order also reopens certain retail stores, effective Monday at 5 pm, including:

    • Furniture and home-furnishings stores
    • Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
    • Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
    • Department stores, with the exception of hardware and home-improvement stores
    • Sporting goods stores
    • Book, craft, and music stores
    • Flea markets
    • Florists and flower stores

    *All stores are required to (1) limit occupancy to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20 percent occupancy, whichever is less; (2) ensure customers are not congregating within six feet of one another, and (3) implement all reasonable steps to comply with CDC and DHEC sanitation guidelines.


    2. US Senate Close To Deal on Additional PPP Funding

    US Senate Democrats and Republicans are close to a deal on the details of additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The package, expected to be passed tomorrow in the Senate by unanimous consent, will likely allocate over $400 billion total including funding for:

    • PPP
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
    • Hospital assistance
    • COVID-19 testing

    The US House could also take a vote on the package as soon as Wednesday of this week but are expected to come back to Washington for an in-person vote.

    To Recap: The PPP was originally passed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program went into effect on April 3rd and authorized up to $349 billion for job retention and certain other expenses at businesses employing less than 500 people. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards for low-interest loans up to a maximum of $10 million. Part of the loan may be forgiven and not counted as income, as long as the money is spent on certain operating expenses the first eight weeks after the loan originated. The original funds were fully allocated by April 16th.

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently released updated loan approval numbers through 12:00 pm on April 16th.

    Nationally:

    • Approval of 1,661,367 loans
    • Approval of $342.3 billion in loans (does not reflect the amount required for reimbursement to lenders per statute within the CARES Act.
    • 4,975 lenders have processed approved loans
    • Overall average loan size is $206,000
    • Top five sectors receiving loans:
      • Construction (13.12%)
      • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (12.65%)
      • Manufacturing (11.96%)
      • Health Care and Social Assistance (11.65%)
      • Accommodation and Food Services (8.91%)

    In South Carolina:

    • Approval of 22,933 loans have been approved
    • Approval of $3.81 billion in loans

    The Greater Sumter Chamber Team will continue to monitor developments at the federal level and to work with the SBA’s South Carolina District Office and the SC Bankers Association in order to assist members and provide up-to-date information about the evolution of the PPP.


    3. ICYMI: Call with US Senator Lindsey Graham Recap

    Yesterday, there were nearly 400 people who tuned in the our Zoom call with US Senator Lindsey Graham facilitated by the SC Chamber of Commerce. Senator Graham, the Senior US Senator for South Carolina, was integral in the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the most significant relief package in American history, designed to help businesses and the economy during this time of crisis.

    Key points from the call include:

    • Hopefully, by summer the country will be entering Phase 2 (Mitigation) of the President’s reopening plan
    • Senator Graham’s hope is that they can continue to fund the PPP program if our small businesses remain under restrictions (such as dine-in eating)
    • Changes he is pushing for in PPP include directing the money down to the main street level, rather than it going to large franchises.
    • Foreign-owned companies DO qualify for PPP – any business who receives conflicting guidance is encouraged to contact the SC Chamber and we will connect them with Senator Graham’s office to get the issue cleared up.
    • One of Senator Graham’s main goals is to eliminate the possibility that individuals receive more per week on employment than they would have at their job – he says the additional $600 per week on top of $327 max in SC has led employees to choose unemployment over remaining on the payroll of their employer
    • Drug therapy is going to be the key to actually beating COVID-19 – we need both COVID-19 tests and antibody tests as well as a vaccine before we can actually say we’ve conquered it.

    4. Virtual Business after Hours

    Last Thursday the Chamber hosted a virtual business after hours where several issues were discussed, to include how this pandemic is effecting their business and what the Chamber can do to help with recovery. The Chamber decided to host this each Thursday until our community has recovered. Register here for this week’s program where the topic of discussion will be “Re-opening Sumter”.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions.

     

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    4/20/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    If any of us didn’t think the global community and economy were tied together before the COVID-19 pandemic, we know now. Most South Carolina businesses already knew about the connectivity and interdependence because South Carolina has long been a leader in exports and foreign direct investment. Now, the world’s economy has been shoved into a recession at a speed and to the depths of which could not have been imagined just a couple of months ago.

    During this unprecedented time, your Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce has been focused on working with our partners to be a conduit for information between businesses and government. In addition to staying in constant communication with state and federal agencies, we have tried to link you directly to the most important information through calls, webinars and communications like the daily updates via mass email and social media. We have opened up access to these opportunities to not only our members but also non-member businesses during this time.  We are in this together and all need each other to get out of it. We also launched a Small Business Hotline to assist our small business owners in navigating through the massive amount of information regarding the CARES Act, the PPP and all of the Governors Executive Orders.

    We thank our members and partners for making what the Greater Sumter Chamber does happen. The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce is the strongest advocacy organization for our business community because your support makes it possible. We need you to continue to stay engaged with our efforts and help us help you. We also need for those non-member businesses that have found our Chamber helpful during this time to join our team, where their investment in us is an investment in the recovery of our community.

    One way all businesses can help, is by taking the time to fill out the Chamber’s Restart Sumter Survey that we’ll send out later this week. The Chamber Staff will work with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce to develop the survey questions so that we can understand what you are facing and how the task force and other policymakers can help. As Sumter begins to prepare to reopen the community to more normal business activity, we’ll use the survey to develop a revitalization and recovery plan in coordination with the South Carolina Chamber and the Governor’s Economic Revitalization Task Force in order to address the needs of our business community.

    Thank you for being there for us. We are here to serve and create value for our investors and our community.

    Reminder: Join Us Today for a Call with US Senator Lindsey Graham

    As Congress continues to consider additional legislation to help employers and workers affected by COVID-19, the Chamber is pleased to participate in a call with US Senator Lindsey Graham Today at 2:00 pm

    Senator Graham was integral in the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the most significant relief package in American history, designed to help businesses and the economy during this time of crisis.

    The South Carolina Chamber will moderate the call and ask questions that was submitted by our state business leaders last week.

       Call Details: Register in advance for this webinar as spots are limited.

    • Date and Time: Today, April 20th, 2020, 2:00 pm ET
    • Topic: COVID-19: SC Chamber & Senator Lindsey Graham
    • Register

    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 here with questions.

     

     

    Have a great day,

     

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     


     

    4/17/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: Call with Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Announces Intent to Create Economic Revitalization Task Force, SCDEW Releases Updated Unemployment Numbers


    1. Join Us Monday for a Call with US Senator Lindsey Graham

    As Congress continues to consider additional legislation to help employers and workers affected by COVID-19, the SC Chamber is pleased to organize a call for local Chambers of Commerce and their membership with US Senator Lindsey Graham on Monday, April 20th, at 2:00 pm

    Senator Graham was integral in the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the most significant relief package in American history, designed to help businesses and the economy during this time of crisis.

    We want to allow members to ask Senator Graham questions following his briefing. Submit questions for Senator Graham no later than 3:00 pm Today. The SC Chamber will moderate the questions and ask as many of them as we can during the call.

    Call Details: Register in advance for this webinar as spots are limited.

    • Date and Time: Monday, April 20th, 2020, 2:00 pm ET
    • Topic: COVID-19: SC Chamber & Senator Lindsey Graham
    • Register

    2. Governor Announces Intent to Create Economic Revitalization Task Force

    Accelerate SC Task Force: In a press conference this afternoon, Governor McMaster announced his intent to roll out an economic revitalization task force called “Accelerate South Carolina.” This task force will help guide the state toward reopening the economy after COVID-19 reaches its peak (expected in early May), and cases begin to decrease. Membership will include representatives from various business and industry sectors. The task force will develop a plan to move South Carolina toward a phased-in reopening of some businesses and activity as healthcare data indicates it is safe and appropriate to do so. The Governor plans to release more specific details about Accelerate SC next week.

    In the press conference, the Governor stated that he expects and hopes the “state’s economy will be humming by the end of June” and that he plans to lift restrictions within weeks. However, he also emphasized that the state is not in a position to reopen at this time and that residents should continue to follow all requirements and recommendations. Only data about a decrease in disease activity will determine when it is appropriate to begin a return to some regular operation.

    New Executive Order: Also, Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-25, which reopens public boating ramps and landings to “facilitate authorized outdoor exercise and recreational activities.” He stressed that citizens must continue to follow the requirements laid out for social distancing and crowd-size limitations.


    3. SCDEW Releases Updated Unemployment Numbers

    Yesterday, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) released the newest unemployment claims data for the state – showing yet another week of record-high initial claims. Once again, SCDEW provided us with a breakdown of claims by industry sectors.

    For the week ending April 11th, 2020: the number of initial intrastate applications (within the state) was 87,686, an increase of approximately 3.14% from the previous week’s count of 85,018 and a 4,293.09% increase from the week ending March 14th. 

    The five counties with the highest claim numbers are:

    • Greenville (10,378)
    • Horry (7,930)
    • Spartanburg (7,258)
    • Charleston (6,877)
    • Richland (5,950)

    The top 10 industry sectors (using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) two-digit codes) with initial claims filed from March 15th to April 11th are:

    • Accommodation and Food Service                                28.3%
    • Manufacturing                                                                14.2%
    • Health Care and Social Assistance                               12.5%
    • Retail Trade                                                                   11.5%
    • Administrative Support and Waste Management           7.7%
    • Other Services                                                               4.8%
    • Professional, Scientific, and Technical                           3.4%
    • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation                              3.3%
    • Wholesale Trade                                                            3.0%
    • Educational Services                                                     2.6%

    These top 10 sectors represent nearly 91.2% of claims submitted with a known industry sector.

    It is important to note that the data includes claims related to COVID-19 as well as unrelated claims. This data set does not include applications that do not have a known industry code or where an industry code is pending. This issue can happen if someone self-employed or an independent contractor is filing the claim, their last employer was out-of-state, or their employer filed on their behalf.

    To Recap:

    • For the week ending March 21st – the number of initial intrastate claims (within the state) was 31,054, an increase of approximately 1600% from the previous week’s count of 1,996.
    • For the week ending March 28th – the number of initial intrastate claims was 64,856, an increase of approximately 108.85% from the previous week’s count of 31,054.
    • For the week ending April 4th – the number of initial intrastate claims was 85,018, an increase of approximately 31.09% from the previous week’s count of 64,856.

    Click here to view the complete data set.


    Don’t forget about the Chamber’s Small Business Hotline for all questions relating to the CARES Act, the PPP program and recent Governor’s Executive Orders. Call 803-774-2402 today!

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with questions.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    4/15/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: SC Reopening Plans Underway, Employer COVID-19 Liability Concerns, SC Chamber Webinar Series

    ICYMI: SC Bankers Answer Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Questions Webinar TODAY

    • Date: Wednesday, April 15th, 1:00 pm ET 
    • Presenters: David Lominack, SC Market President, TD Bank and Fred Green, President and CEO, SC Bankers Association 
    • Topic: PPP applications and frequently asked questions. 
    • Registration

    1. SC Reopening Plans Underway

    SC Reopening Plan: In his press conference Monday, Governor McMaster announced that his office would begin working on a “revitalization plan” to get the state’s economy started again. South Carolina is not expecting to see a peak in COVID-19 cases until late April or early May. The Governor’s current restrictions, including the “Home or Work Order,” are unlikely to be lifted until sometime after the state hits its peak. “Compliance has been good,” said Governor McMaster. “But now is not the time to let up.” We appreciate the Governor looking toward the future and making economic recovery a priority.

    Other State Plans: Other states that have seen COVID-19 cases begin to flatten are beginning their economic revitalization planning now, and many are working with neighboring states to consider regional plans. For instance, yesterday, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced that they would collaborate on the reopening of the economy in what they are dubbing the “Western Pact.” Similarly, seven governors in the Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts) announced yesterday that they would also join together to make regional recovery plans. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that each state would provide a public health official, an economic development official, and the Governor’s chief of staff to participate as members of the group that will formulate a final plan.

    It is important to note that nearly all of these states have a projected peak COVID-19 date earlier than SC, and many have already passed the peak date. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projections, these states’ peak dates are:

    • Washington State: April 2nd
    • New York: April 8th
    • Delaware: April 9th
    • New Jersey: April 11th
    • California: April 13th
    • Pennsylvania: April 13th
    • Massachusetts: April 20th
    • Connecticut: April 21st
    • Oregon: April 22nd
    • South Carolina: April 24th
    • Rhode Island: April 25th

    *The Chamber is in constant contact with organizations throughout the country that are exploring best practices to make recommendations when South Carolina officials are ready to start considering reopening operations. We have reached out to Governor McMaster’s office and asked to be included in conversations as they develop a plan for economic recovery and revitalization.


    2. Employer COVID-19 Liability Concerns

    As COVID-19 continues to have devastating impacts on businesses, manufacturers, and healthcare workers, an added layer of burden on these industries has also taken shape in the form of legal liability. The US Chamber’s Litigation Center and the Institute for Legal Reform are tracking an “onslaught of COVID-19 litigation” that has already been filed. Yesterday, a white paper detailing the litigation concerns and how policymakers can address them was published by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA).

    Key concerns noted in ATRA’s study are: 

    • Concerns for Businesses:
      • Many essential businesses will face lawsuits by customers or visitors, alleging that the business negligently exposed them to coronavirus. These lawsuits will include individuals who did not contract coronavirus, experienced symptoms similar to the common flu, or experienced no symptoms at all.
      • The plaintiffs’ lawyers will attempt to circumvent the workers’ compensation system and bring tort lawsuits against employers for exposure to coronavirus at work.
    • Concern for Manufacturers:
      • Manufacturers are quickly making products, like PPE, to aid in the coronavirus effort. Lawsuits may target manufacturers of these critically needed supplies. Without legislative protection, companies are exposed to product liability lawsuits if a product alleges to have a manufacturing or design flaw or lacks sufficient instructions or warnings regarding the product’s risks or limitations.
    • Concern for Healthcare: Health care providers are bracing for a surge of medical liability actions related to the standard of care provided during the coronavirus crisis.

    We are working with national groups and policymakers on ways to protect and mitigate litigation impacts on businesses, manufacturers, and healthcare industries.


    3. SC Chamber Webinar Series

    COVID-19 Workplace Safety Webinar Recap: The SC Hospital Association and Dr. Terri Rebmann (Associate Dean for Academic & Faculty Affairs, Director of the Institute for Biosecurity, Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at Saint Louis University) presented a webinar last week, co-sponsored by the SC Chamber, the SC Hospital Association, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC.They discussed lowering risk, keeping employees safe, and creating a safe work environment in response to COVID-19.

    Some key points from the webinar include:

    • Screening employees coming into work:
      • They do not recommend that all employees have a temperature check when arriving for work, but if employers choose to implement a universal temperature check policy, they should use 100 degrees as the guideline
    • The employee has a suspected COVID-19 exposure:
      • Do not restrict from duty
      • The employee should self-monitor for 14 days:
        • Check temperature twice a day
        • Report symptoms
      • If the employee develops symptoms, they should be restricted from duty and switched to self-isolation
    • Employees who have COVID-19-like symptoms:
      • Do not wait for the employee to get a positive test result before taking action; the employee should be immediately restricted from duty and not return to work until he or she has been fever-free and without respiratory symptoms without the use of medications for at least 24 hours
    • Workplace PPE for employees (recommendations for non-healthcare businesses):
      • Masks recommended for employees who work within 3-6 feet of clients, especially for a prolonged time
        • Masks are currently the most important PPE
      • Gloves if cleaning surfaces (mostly cleaning personnel)
        • Gloves are not 100% protective and can lead to a false sense of security – they are not effective if used improperly
        • It is most important for employees handling cash or documents not to touch their mouth or nose before they practice proper hand hygiene
      • Isolation gown if there is a risk of splashes or spray (mostly in healthcare settings)
    • An infected person has been in the place of business:
      • There is only a theoretical risk of surface contact transmission of COVID-19
      • If an infected person has been in the business, only a routine cleaning with EPA approved COVID-19 cleaners is recommended – the business does not need to shut down for a prolonged time

    Click here to watch the webinar.


    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 here with any questions that you may have regarding the CARES ACT, the Payroll Protection Program or the Governor’s recent Executive Orders.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    4/14/2020

    Dear Chamber Members, 

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce Team includes: SC Bankers Association To Answer PPP Questions, Governor Renews State of Emergency 15 More Days, SCDEW Announces CARES Act Unemployment Payments 


    1. SC Bankers Association To Answer Your Paycheck Protection Questions

    Since the announcement of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and its subsequent roll-out on April 3rd, we have continued to receive many questions about the PPP. The survey results indicated that about half of respondents planned to apply for a PPP loan, and nearly 70% wanted more information about the CARES Act.  To address interest and many questions about PPP, we will participate in a webinar this week featuring David Lominack, TD Bank SC Market President and a SC Chamber Board Member, and Fred Green, President and CEO of the SC Bankers Association. 

    • Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Webinar 
      • Date: Wednesday, April 15th, 1:00 pm ET 
      • Presenters: David Lominack, SC Market President, TD Bank and Fred Green, President and CEO, SC Bankers Association 
      • Topic: PPP applications and frequently asked questions. 
      • Registration

    2. Governor Extends State of Emergency Another 15 Days

    Yesterday, Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-23, which extends the current State of Emergency for another 15 days. A state of emergency in South Carolina is only active for 15 days. The new order states that because the COVID-19 crisis continues to be an “ongoing, evolving, expanding, and accelerating public health threat” in South Carolina, the state of emergency continues. Additionally, all previous executive orders, including the “Home or Work Order,” remain in effect for the duration of the emergency or until the Governor announces otherwise. 

    Currently, South Carolina is one of 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to have a “Stay-at-Home” order of some type in place. A federal plan to return to normal is not yet in place, but many states and researchers plan to begin developing that plan. For instance, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently published “National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening,” written by several public health experts. That report recommends:  

    To gradually move away from a reliance on physical distancing as our primary tool for controlling future spread, we need: 

    • Better data to identify areas of spread and the rate of exposure and immunity in the population; 
    • Improvements in state and local health care system capabilities, public-health infrastructure for early outbreak identification, case containment, and adequate medical supplies; and 
    • Therapeutic, prophylactic, and preventive treatments and better-informed medical interventions that give us the tools to protect the most vulnerable people and help rescue those who may become very sick.

    The Chamber is in constant contact with organizations throughout the country that are exploring best practices to make recommendations when South Carolina officials are ready to start considering reopening operations. 


    3. SCDEW Announces CARES Act Unemployment Payments

    The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) recently announced details regarding the roll-out of the increased unemployment payments as part of the CARES Act and answered many more questions about the implementation of that legislation

    Some highlights include:  

    • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments of an additional $600 for COVID-19 related claims begin going out to individuals this week.  
    • SCDEW will begin taking claims no later than next week for individuals who were previously ineligible (independent contractors, gig economy workers, etc.), as part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.  
    • The agency is still working out details regarding the payment of an additional 13 weeks of unemployment to those who have already used their 20 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits but anticipates details and implementation will begin in the next few weeks. 

    Make sure to check out SCDEW’s new resource for more information regarding unemployment benefits related to COVID-19.  


    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.  

    As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any further information as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out with questions here

    Don’t forget about our Small Business Hotline for all your questions regarding the Payroll Protection Program, the CARES Act or any of the Governors recent orders.  Let us help you navigate the facts over fear.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     


    4/13/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Our Chamber team hopes you and your family had a safe and Happy Easter weekend.

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: Chambers Ask Locals for Tax Extension, SC Economists Revise State Budget Estimates, SC Chamber Releases COVID-19 Business Survey Results , Member News

    In Case You Missed It – Thursday, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar in which Ray Beeman, Principal, and Co-leader at the Washington office of Ernst & Young gave an overview of the CARES Act, as it relates to spending, lending, and taxation. View the webinar here.


    1. SC Chamber Urge Cities and Counties to Extend Tax Deadlines

    In letters sent today to the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) and the South Carolina Association of Counties (SCAC), the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce urged the associations to encourage their members to extend tax deadlines for businesses in cities and counties throughout the state in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

    The letters state:

    “For many businesses, this extension could mean the difference between paying their employees or not over the next few weeks. Moreover, penalties associated with not paying local taxes on time are often high and would add to the already large financial burden facing businesses as they try to recover.”

    The letter to the MASC request explicitly that local governments:

    • Extend tax deadlines for businesses and suspend penalties, in line with the adjusted federal and state deadlines.
    • Extend the time for which to appeal a tax assessment.

    The letter to the SCAC requests that county governments explicitly:

    • Work with the SC. Department of Revenue to extend tax deadlines for businesses, in line with the adjusted federal and state period, most notably:
      • Business Personal Property taxes on several business types, including real estate, securities brokers, insurance, hotels, health services, and legal services.
    • Extend the time for which to appeal a tax assessment

    2. SC Economists Revise State Budget Estimates

    Thursday, the Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) met to update the state’s general fund forecast for the current and upcoming fiscal year.

    2019-20 Forecast: Budget forecasters expect to see a reduction in revenues by $1.2 billion for the current 2019-20 fiscal year, nearly wiping out the surplus $1.9 billion projected by the BEA earlier this year. Fortunately, current state revenues are still above state expenditures by about $40 million.

    2020-21 Forecast: For the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year, the BEA reduced the estimates by $643.5, with revenue growth estimated at a much lower 2.3%, compared to the earlier February estimate of 4.5%.

    Frank Rainwater, the state’s economist, predicts that with the expected loss in revenue, the state may have about a $750 million surplus; but that number assumes a June 1st return to social norms. The forecast may continue to change as the effects of COVID-19 on the economy begin to materialize. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a version of the budget based on the original surplus of $1.9 billion. 

    This week, the House and Senate each passed a version of a Continuing Resolution, which would allow the state to operate at current budget levels without a new budget on June 30th. After they reach a compromise and pass the final resolution, both bodies will likely return to adopt a new budget for FY 2020-2021 in late summer or early fall. The updated BEA forecasts will be critical in shaping the allocation of funds.


    3. SC Chamber Releases COVID-19 Business Survey Results

    Last week, the SC Chamber sent out a survey to businesses across the state to gauge the effect COVID-19 is having on operations and find out what information companies need to move forward. They received 123 responses from businesses across varied sectors, including manufacturing, business and professional services; financial services; health services; hospitality/retail; transportation, distribution, and logistics, agribusiness, utilities, and others.

    Some of the key takeaways are as follows:

    • Over 60% of respondents think the actions of the federal government have put us on the right track.
    • Nearly 60% of respondents think the actions of state government have put us on the right track.
    • About half of the respondents plan to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
    • Almost half of the respondents did not plan to lay off or furlough employees at the time of their response.
    • Overwhelmingly (nearly 70%), respondents want more information about the CARES Act.

    Click here to see the full survey results.


    4. Member News

    Jay Richardson at J.H. Seale in Sumter informed the Chamber that their application for the Payroll Protection Program had already been funded and they were able to hire back ALL furloughed employees. See the statement below.

    “Just thought I would share some news. Seale has already got money from the government. This system works. It’s just not promising businesses and not coming through. We were able to hire all furloughed employees back to our company. Just wanted to share this. It only took 5 days to go thru the process and get our check”.

    Be sure to share your good news with us and we will happily share with our members.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website here.

    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 mailto:chris.hardy@sumterchamber.com with questions.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO



    4/9/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes Governor Issues New Order and “Home or Work” Order Clarifications, General Assembly Held Session, Took Little Action, Members In Need

    Note: the above links are anchors to each section and may not work with all browsers


    1. Governor Issues New Order and SC “Home or Work” Order Clarifications

    Furloughed Employee Unemployment Benefits: The Governor issued Executive Order 2020-22 today, allowing furloughed employees to receive unemployment benefits while simultaneously receiving “COVID-19 Support Payments” from their employer.

    The order requires SC. Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) to consider “a voluntary payment, or series of payments made by an employer to an employee in response to furloughing the employee” as a form of severance pay, which will not disqualify an employee from receiving unemployment. This order will allow employers to continue to support their employees while allowing them to receive unemployment benefits.

    As SCDEW issues further guidance, we will be sure to share that information with our members.

    Governor McMaster’s “Home or Work” Order: Executive Order 2020-21 went into effect at 5:00 pm yesterday. In addition to the update that was sent Monday, we are providing the following clarifications based on the questions we have received since the order was issued. 

    • SLED Clarification Regarding Travel Restrictions: As stated yesterday and contrary to what some of our members have heard, Governor McMaster’s orders DO NOT require citizens to possess special credentials to travel to essential work and activities.
    • The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) issued guidance regarding the enforcement of Governor McMaster’s orders and expressly noted:
      • “Law enforcement officers should continue to conduct enforcement activity in accordance with their own agency’s practices and protocols. During the course of these normal operations, if an officer develops reasonable suspicion or probable cause that an individual is in violation of Executive Order 2020-21, or any other Executive Order, the officer may take the appropriate enforcement action. However, there is no requirement in any existing Executive Order that an individual must possess or be able to provide written proof regarding the individual’s activities or travel, essential or otherwise.”
    • Nothing is prohibiting a business from issuing employees paperwork that states they are an essential employee and must travel to work at an essential business. Still, the Governor’s executive orders do not require such a credential.

    Non-Essential Business Operation: Some businesses may be unaware that even if they are deemed “non-essential” by Governor McMaster’s Executive Orders 2020-17 and 2020-18, they can continue to conduct business with the public via:

    • Online or telephone order
    • Alternate means of purchase or delivery of good or services such as:
      • Curbside purchase, pickup, or delivery
      • Home or off-site delivery
      • Businesses MUST implement these measures in a manner that maintains “social distancing” and is consistent with state and federal public health and safety official guidance.

    **NOTE: A business deemed “non-essential” may still seek clarification from the Department of Commerce if they are unsure of whether they can continue to remain open to the public.**


    2. General Assembly Held Session, Took Little Action

    The SC House of Representatives and the SC Senate met today for the first time since March 17th with the intent to pass the two items described below. The House passed the Continuing Resolution, but the Senate added one amendment to the bill related to Santee Cooper, requiring the House to return to Columbia to act on it. The Senate also passed the Sine Die Resolution. We will keep you updated on when the General Assembly takes final action on these critical bills.   

    A Continuing Resolution: extends funding for state government at current fiscal year levels until the General Assembly can return to adopt a new budget. This resolution is needed because the General Assembly does not plan to meet again for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and, therefore, won’t be able to pass a new state budget before the fiscal year ends on June 30th. As passed by the SC House and SC Senate, the Continuing Resolution will: 

    • Allow provisos from last year’s budget to remain in effect, so the proviso that prohibits private, 3rd party entities from collecting or assessing business license taxes (Proviso 109.14) will remain in place.
    • Set aside $200,000 from the Contingency Reserve Fund:
      • $180,000,000 to the COVID-19 Response Reserve account
        • Allows the Governor to direct the expenditure of funds from the COVID-19 Response Reserve account for expenditures necessary and appropriate for the health, safety, and welfare of the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
        • Allows the Governor to direct the expenditure of up to $15,000,000 from the COVID-19 Response Reserve account for the cost of protection of the health and safety of voters, poll workers, and employees of a county election commission related to conducting the 2020 primary, runoff, and general elections.
      • $20,000,000 to the Disaster Trust Fund to be used for disaster relief assistance

    The Sine Die Resolution: extends the legislative session past the regular date that legislative work ends (May 14th, 2020). The Sine Die Resolution, as introduced but not yet passed, specifies that the General Assembly will next meet in Columbia on September 15th and may debate the following bills:

    • The State Budget (H.5201)
    • Bills that have passed one body, including:
      • Business License Tax Reform (H.4431)
      • Comprehensive Education Reform (S.419 or H.3759)

    As always, the SC Chamber Policy Team will continue to monitor these items during this unprecedented legislative session and advocate for the elements needed to support South Carolina businesses, throughout the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and into the recovery period.


    3. Members In Need

    Amedisys Home Health Care has 45 clinicians that provide in-home care to 400 patients here in the Sumter community and they are feeling the effects of the shortage of PPE. While their corporate headquarters is working to get supplies out to their various locations, shipping and supply allocation takes time. Melissa Marshall, Director of Operations, is reaching out to the Sumter community for help. They have a desperate need for masks (i.e. N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, & they will accept homemade masks) and hand sanitizer! If you have these supplies available, please contact Melissa at 803-720-5244 so she can make arrangements to acquire them.

    Please be sure to follow our Shop Local Facebook page.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our COVID-19 website. 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 questions or call our Small Business Hotline at 803-774-2402.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     


     

    4/8/2020

    Sled Guidance on Compliance with Governor McMaster's "Home OR Work Order - Click Here 


    4/7/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: Governor Issues Stay-at-Home Order, General Assembly Returns For One-Day Session, CDC Issues New Guidance, Chamber Small Business Hotline


    Governor McMaster Issues Stay-at-Home and Work Order for South Carolina

    In his press conference yesterday, Governor McMaster announced that he had issued Executive Order 2020-21, putting a mandatory “Home-or-Work Order” in place beginning Today at 5:00 pm to help limit the spread of COVID-19. This new order MAKES NO CHANGES to the current list of non-essential businesses that must close. To review that list, see our previous communications here.  

    The Governor’s order requires that all residents and visitors in South Carolina limit their movements outside of their home, UNLESS they are engaged in Essential Business, Essential Activities, or Critical Infrastructure Operations. Additionally, the order requires retail businesses, that are not deemed non-essential, to limit customers to no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet of space or 20% of occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less.

    The Greater Sumter Chamber Team anticipates some questions from members about this new executive order, which we attempt to answer below. 

    When does the Governor’s Home-or-Work Order go into effect? 

    • Tomorrow, April 7th, at 5:00 pm.

    How long is the Home-or-Work Order effective? 

    • April 7th at 5:00 pm until the State of Emergency ends.

    The Governor’s order allows individuals to conduct “Essential Business.” What is this?

    • An Essential Business is any business that has not been deemed “non-essential” by two previous executive orders. See bullet 5. It does NOT mean these business can’t operate, it only means they can not be open to the general public.

    The Governor’s order allows individuals to conduct “Critical Infrastructure Operations.” What is this?

    • Individuals operating commercial vehicles transporting essential goods and products
    • Individuals are performing any essential services identified by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s guidance, including amendments thereto, for continued critical infrastructure viability.

    How is the Home-or-Work Order different for businesses than the previous executive orders?

    • This order does not change the list of “non-essential” businesses that must close. Only companies classified as “non-essential” in the Governor’s previous two executive orders must close. See the full list here.
    • It does require individuals to stay home UNLESS they are conducting “Essential Activities” (see below for explanation).
    • Also, there are new requirements for retailers not deemed non-essential. Those stores must limit customers to no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet of space or 20% of occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less.

    The Governor’s order allows residents to continue to conduct “Essential Activities.” What are these activities? Read the order for a full explanation.

    • Caring for or visiting family
    • Obtaining necessary goods and services for household consumption and use
    • Seeking medical care for persons and pets
    • Engaging in outdoor recreational activities using six feet social distancing
    • Attending religious services

    Is there a penalty for not following this order?

    • Yes. A violation of this order is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine (up to $100) or imprisonment for up to 30 days.

    Are there travel restrictions punishable by a penalty associated with the Home-or-Work Order?

    • No, individuals can still travel to essential work and activities as needed. The order requires no special credentials to travel to essential work or activities at this time.

    If I’m not sure whether or not I am an essential business, who can I contact?

    • First, the Governor’s previous orders only close “non-essential businesses” and only those on the list, as explained in bullet three. Second, if after reviewing the list, you are still uncertain about whether your business needs to close, then you can complete the Essential Business Clarification” form via the Department of Commerce’s website, email chris.hardy@sumterchamber.com , or call 803-775-1231. The department will review the request, and the business will receive a determination within 24 hours. Finally, the Governor’s Office clarified: “If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor’s executive order, the business should continue normal operations until a determination is made.”

    Some cities have stay-at-home ordinances in effect, like Columbia and Charleston. If I am a business in a city with a stay-at-home ordinance, what order should I follow?

    • The Governor’s previous orders state that his orders “supersedes and preempts” any part of a local ordinance that conflicts with his order. If your business is required to close under a local ordinance but can stay open under the Governor’s orders, then we suggest you contact the SC Department of Commerce per bullet 4 for more clarification. Keep in mind that the SC Attorney General has issued an advisory opinion that states local stay-at-home ordinances are still valid until a court determines they violate state law. Attorney General Wilson believes state law only grants the Governor these types of emergency powers.

    General Assembly Returning to Columbia for One-Day Session on Wednesday

    The SC House of Representatives and SC Senate are returning to Columbia at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, April 8th to take up two key legislative items:

    • Continuing Resolution: extends funding for state government at current fiscal year levels until the General Assembly can return to pass a new budget. This resolution is needed because the General Assembly isn’t likely to meet again for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and, therefore, won’t be able to pass a new state budget before the fiscal year ends on June 30th.
    • Sine Die Resolution: extends the legislative session past the date on which regular legislative work ends on May 14th. The Sine Die Resolution will specify when the General Assembly will return, and what specific bills it debates. At this time, we anticipate the General Assembly will return in October and take up bills that have already passed one body and crossed over, including:
      • The State Budget (H.5201)
      • Comprehensive Education Reform (S.419)
      • Business License Tax Reform (H.4431)

    Details of Latest CDC Guidelines – Masks and Return to Work Standards

    Face Coverings and Masks: On Friday, the CDC recommended that Americans wear face coverings when in certain public settings. Read the details below as you consider what this means for you and your business.

    • The new recommendations encourage the wearing of cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
    • The CDC emphasized the importance of this new recommendation in areas where significant community-based COVID-19 transmission is high.
    • This recommendation is considered a voluntary public health measure, and the CDC offers a primer on simple face cloths here
    • The practice of six-feet social distancing continues to be a leading technique to slow the spread of the virus. This guidance is in addition to the current interim guidance for employers and businesses offered by the CDC that updates regularly, as well as the March-issued workplace guidance prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
    • The CDC also notes that surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that we must reserve for the nation’s health care workforce and first responders.  

    Updated Return-To-Work Standards: The CDC has provided updated guidance on when a person with COVID-19 or a person exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue home isolation and return to work.

    • Previous guidance: recommends the person to self-quarantine for 14 days.
    • Updated guidance: allows people to end home isolation and return to work before the previous 14-day period under certain conditions.
    • Continued guidance: employers should immediately separate employees who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive at work or who become sick during the day from other employees, customers, and visitors.

    Chamber Small Business Hotline

    The Chamber of Commerce has launched a new Small Business Hotline to answer any questions regarding the Governors Executive Orders, SBA disaster recovery programs and the Payroll Protection Program. If you have any questions about how these new orders will affect your business or anything you feel the Chamber can do for you please call Chris Hardy at 803-774-2402. This line will ring directly to me in my office, if I am unable to answer the phone please leave a message and I will return your call at the next available opportunity.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our COVID-19 website

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO


    4/6/2020

    Dear Chamber Members,

    Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: Governor’s Update to Non-Essential Businesses ListCOVID-19 Business Survey Reminder, Paycheck Protection Program Update, Sumter Rotary Club Donation, Muschamp’s Launch Feed Our Heroes


    Governor McMaster Closes Additional Categories of “Non-Essential” Businesses

    In a press conference on Friday, Governor McMaster announced two new executive orders.

    • The first order goes into effect Monday, April 6th at 5:00 pm and added additional business types to the “non-essential” business list, including retail stores as follows:
      • Furniture and home-furnishings stores
      • Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
      • Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
      • Department stores, except for hardware and home-improvement stores
      • Sporting goods stores
      • Book, craft, and music stores
      • Flea markets
      • Florists and flower stores

    This order does not prohibit the operation of retail stores in the categories above for fulfilling online or telephone orders or providing alternate means of purchasing or delivering products or services—including curbside purchase, pickup, or delivery and home or off-site delivery.

    • The second orderwhich became effective Friday at 5:00 pm, closed short-term rentals to people from COVID-19 “hotspots,” as identified in a CDC travel advisory or other CDC notice, to include the Tri-State Area (consisting of the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut). This order includes hotels, short term rentals, condos, resorts, bed and breakfast companies, and timeshares. The following categories are not subject to the provisions in this order:
      • Individuals operating commercial vehicles transporting essential goods and products, such as food, water, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, fuels and petroleum products (to include fuel oil, diesel oil, gasoline, kerosene, propane, and liquid petroleum), livestock, poultry, feed for livestock and poultry, and crops and other agricultural products ready to be harvested (to include timber and wood chips);
      • Individuals employed by airlines;
      • Individuals otherwise engaged in commercial transportation activities;
      • Individuals are performing or assisting with the military, healthcare, public safety, or emergency response operations, as well as any other operations or services identified by the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in its March 28th, 2020 Memorandum, or any future amendments or supplements thereto, as essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.

    As has been the case previously, if after reviewing the list, you are still uncertain about whether your business needs to close, then you can complete the “Essential Business Clarification” form via the Department of Commerce’s website, email covid19sc@sccommerce.com, or call 803-734-2873. The department will review the request, and the business will receive a determination within 24 hours. 

    Finally, the Governor’s Office clarified: “If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor’s executive order, the business should continue normal operations until a determination is made.”


    Paycheck Protection Program Update

    • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) started Friday, April 3rd. Still, some banks are not yet prepared to take applications, due in part, because federal authorities issued program guidance (Interim Final Rule) late yesterday. Also, loan applications may take time to process because all applications must be handled directly through the Small Business Administration’s central portal. 
      • Read the SC Bankers Association press release issued today for more information about SC banks’ efforts to prepare to help distribute PPP funds to small businesses.
    • To Recap: The PPP was passed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In essence, it authorizes up to $349 billion for job retention and certain other expenses at businesses employing less than 500 people. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards for low-interest loans up to a maximum of $10 million. Part of the loan may be forgiven and not counted as income, as long as the money is spent on certain operating expenses the first eight weeks after the loan originated.
      • The Greater Sumter Chamber Team continues to work with the SBA’s South Carolina District Office and the SC Bankers Association and will provide up-to-date information as we receive it.
    • ICYMI: Call with US Senator Tim Scott Recap
      • Friday, there were over 600 people who tuned in to the Zoom call with US Senator Tim Scott. Senator Scott was integral in the recent passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the most significant relief package in American history, designed to help businesses and the economy during this time of crisis. We thank Senator Scott and his team for taking the time to join our members today to answer questions related to that legislation.
      • Click here to read a full recap of the call. 
      • To view a recording of the call, click here.

    Sumter Rotary Club And Chamber of Commerce Partnership

    Thursday, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Sumter Rotary Club to provide meals to our local healthcare first responders. Since the Rotary Club is unable to hold their regularly scheduled meetings, the Rotary Board agreed to purchase $1,000 in credits to be used at local restaurants to feed out front line workers. Shoney’s will be serving the workers at Prisma Health Tuomey, Sumter Cut Rate will be serving the responders at Sumter County EMS, Simply Southern Bistro will be serving the workers at Colonial Family Practice and Palmetto Oyster House will be serving the workers at Tandem Health.

    Muschamp Launches Feed Our Heroes Campaign

    University of South Carolina Head Football Coach Will Muschamp, and his wife, launched the “Feed Our Heroes Campaign” to help feed front line health care workers in Richland, Lexington and Sumter County. You can read the full article here. Please share your stories with us by emailing us here.

    These and other resources for businesses are available on our website.

    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 mailto:chris.hardy@sumterchamber.comwith questions.

    Have a great day,

    Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
    President & CEO

     

    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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