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Dear Chamber Members,

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: US Senate Passes Additional Funds for PPPGovernor McMaster Closes Schools for Remainder of School YearUpdates for our Manufacturing MemberChamber 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 hereSunday, 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.

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