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Dear Chamber Members,

Today’s business update compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes:  Time Runs Out For Liability Reform , Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales, New Mask Requirements in Some Municipalities

1. Time Runs Out For Liability Reform 

Liability Protection: The House and Senate both adjourned this week before debating proposals to provide limited liability protection to South Carolina’s healthcare providers and businesses that have been serving the state during the pandemic. Both bodies formed special committees, took public testimony, and attempted to draft legislation…but time ran out before any reform could be passed. The next opportunity will be when the General Assembly convenes again in September. 

Liability protection has been addressed in 32 other states and is key to getting workers back to work, and states’ economies restarted. 

Liability protection was included as one of Governor McMaster’s accelerateSC Task Force’s top recommendations. The House did introduce a bill, but with policymakers not set to return until September, the bill will not be addressed until then. 

We will keep advocating for legislators to take up this critical issue as soon as possible and in their next session in mid-September. The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce is working with other local Chambers across the State and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce to pass meaningful reform to allow for safe harbor. 

  • Provide limited liability protection for businesses, healthcare providers, and educational institutions in any COVID-19 related lawsuit from the start of the pandemic to the end of the pandemic.
  • Ensure that employers who have taken steps to keep workplaces safe and follow public health guidelines are protected from liability.

CARES Act: Yesterday, the General Assembly approved a plan (H.5202) to authorize approximately $1.2 billion of the $1.9 billion of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for South Carolina. The Senate passed the bill with the Senate Finance Committee amendment during its one-day session Tuesday, and the House subsequently concurred in the Senate amendments yesterday. They both closely mirror the accelerateSC Task Force and the Governor’s recommendations.

The joint resolution, as passed, includes several items on the SC Chamber’s priority list for recovery. We thank the General Assembly for getting these priorities accomplished:

  • $500 million for the Unemployment Trust Fund
  • $50 million for broadband expansion
  • $210 million for K-12 education including:
    • $50.7 million for summer learning camps
    • $160 million for bringing students back to school five days earlier than previously planned.
  • $270 million for state and local agencies (including higher education)

These authorization amounts represent the maximum amount given to an agency or office. All agencies or governmental offices seeking funds must apply for them through the grant administrator, Guidehouse, who will review the application and then determine if the request meets the qualifications for CARES Act money as dictated by the Federal Government.

2. Greater Sumter Chamber Submits Request For Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales 

On May 21, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce submitted a request to Sumter County Council to include a referendum on the November General Election Ballot to allow the citizens of Sumter County to vote on Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales. 

In 2014 the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce led an effort to include On-Premise Sunday Alcohol Sales within the City of Sumter. The economic impact of this effort has been significant for job creation, new economic development, and additional tax revenue for our community. Six years later, we ask that Sumter County Council allow the citizens of Sumter to make this decision as they did in 2014, by putting the question to allow Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales on the November general election ballot. 

As Sumter’s economy continues to grow, we must continue to remain competitive with other counties in our state through economic development, tourism, recreation, and population. A 2018 Economic Impact Study of America’s Beer & Wine Retailers provides an in-depth look at the role that beverage licensees play by creating more than 2.03 million jobs from direct retail alcohol sales and paying more than $47.9 billion in local, state and federal taxes.   

Yesterday, Sumter County Council passed the first reading of the ordinance with very little discussion before the vote. We thank County Council for addressing this issue to allow Sumter County to remain competitive with our neighboring communities.  

3. New Mask Requirements in Columbia and Greenville

This week, the City of Columbia and the City of Greenville passed mandatory mask ordinances. Richland and Greenville Counties have experienced two of the highest incidents of positive cases in the state. As of yesterday, DHEC is reporting that there are approximately 3,000 confirmed cases in Richland County and 4,300 cases in Greenville County. DHEC continues to encourage wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, avoiding group gatherings, regularly washing hands, and staying home if sick.

Columbia Ordinance

The City of Columbia passed its mask ordinance on June 23rd.

  • People within the limits of the City of Columbia must wear a mask:
    • Inside a public building
    • Waiting to enter a public building
    • Interacting with others outdoors within six feet of each other
    • In public and private businesses
    • Public and private transportation
    • Walking in public when it isn’t possible to maintain a six-foot distance from others
  • Masks are not required:
    • In personal vehicles
    • In an enclosed space or when you’re only with members of your household
    • During outdoor physical activity not within six feet of others
    • While eating, drinking or smoking
    • Within religious establishments
    • When a mask causes or aggravates a health condition
    • When a mask would prevent the receipt of personal services
  • This ordinance goes into effect on Friday, June 26th, at 6 am and is currently set to expire 60 days from the implementation (August 26, 2020).
  • Failure to comply with this ordinance will result in a fine of not more than $25.
  • Additionally, employees in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies within city limits must wear masks or face a fine not more than $100.

Greenville Ordinance

The City of Greenville mask ordinance was passed June 22nd and is narrower than the Columbia ordinance.

  • People within the city limits of Greenville must wear a mask inside a grocery store or pharmacy.
    • Failure to comply with this ordinance will result in a fine of not more than $25.
  • Additionally, employees of restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies must wear masks.
    • Failure to comply with this part of the ordinance will result in a fine not more than $100.
  • The Greenville ordinance went into effect on Tuesday, June 23rd and is set to expire 60 days after implementation (August 23, 2020)

In both cities, masks are not required to be worn by people with underlying health conditions where a mask would be harmful.

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