Dear Chamber Members,
This week’s business update compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber team includes New Federal COVID-19 Legislation Introduced this Week, Governor McMaster Announces New COVID-19 Allowances and Requirements for SC, SC House Holds First Criminal Justice Reform Hearing of the Summer, Chamber Pushes Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales
1. New Federal COVID-19 Legislation Introduced this Week
Federal Liability Protection Bill: On Monday this week, S. 4317, the SAFE TO WORK Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. This legislation provides targeted and temporary liability relief at the Federal level that would protect businesses, healthcare providers, and educational institutions in all states against unfair and costly COVID-19 related lawsuits that threaten to derail our economic recovery.
If you receive our updates, you are aware of the fact that unlike the majority of states, South Carolina has no COVID-19 liability protections in place at the state level and the General Assembly is not planning to return until mid-September. Chambers of Commerce in SC are urging Congress to quickly enact the SAFE TO WORK Act by including it as part of the Phase IV COVID-19 federal relief package.
We know how important this issue is to our members and want to give you an opportunity to directly engage with our federal delegation by signing on to this letter outlining the importance of this legislation. We are asking every interested business to click here to sign onto the letter by Tuesday of next week, August 4th. Your business’s participation will make it clear to our delegation that this issue is of the foremost importance to our economic recovery and inclusion in the next stimulus bill is a must if we want to get our state and nation back on track.
Phase IV Comprehensive Federal Relief Legislation: Also on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a new COVID-19 relief package they are calling the “Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections and Schools (HEALS)” Act. The HEALS Act comes two months after the House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Solutions Act (HEROES) Act. The HEALS Act contains the following:
- Economic Stimulus
- Another round of $1,200 checks to individuals making $75,000 or less plus an additional $500 per dependent (up to three dependents).
- $200 a week in additional unemployment benefits until September 30th, to be given on top of state unemployment benefits. After September 30th, the additional unemployment benefit would be calculated by states to cap out at a total of 70% of a person’s income before COVID.
- $190 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program
- New rules would allow some qualifying businesses to take out a second PPP loan.
- Some 501 (c) 6 organizations would qualify for a PPP loan.
- Forgivable expenses PPP loan expenses under the HEALS Act would be expanded to include worker protection costs and covered supplier costs. Additionally, the HEALS Act would simplify forgiveness for small businesses.
- $100 billion for SBA loans to recovery sector businesses.
- Tax Changes
- Increase in the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) from a 50% to 65% refundable payroll tax credit. Additionally, the gross receipts threshold to qualify for this credit would be lowered from 50% to 25% compared to the same time last calendar year.
- New refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50 percent of an employer’s qualified employee protection expenses.
- Temporary full deduction for business meals.
- Mandates that employees who worked in multiple states would only have to pay income tax in their state of residency and any state in which they spend an extended time working in through 2024
- Learn more about these tax changes here.
- Additional Changes
- $105 billion for schools
- $70 billion for K-12
- $30 billion for higher education
- $5 billion for Governors to use for either
- Extension for states and localities spending Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) money from December 31st, 2020 to 90 days after the end of a state or locality’s fiscal year 2021 date. Additionally, states and localities could use up to 25% of their CRF money to cover revenue shortfalls incurred in the 2020 and 2021 fiscal year. As a reminder South Carolina received just under $2 billion from the CRF.
- Liability Protections (see section above).
- $105 billion for schools
Wednesday, Governor McMaster announced a number of important changes to current COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state including:
- Previous “guidelines” for restaurants will become mandatory on Monday, August 3rd. These requirements include:
- Operating dine-in services at no more than 50% of the certificate of occupancy issued by the fire marshal.
- Employees and patrons shall be required to wear masks or face coverings.
- Tables are to be spaced to keep diners at least six feet apart.
- No more than 8 customers per table unless from the same family.
- Standing or congregating in bar area of restaurant is prohibited.
- Establishments that possess a state permit to sell alcohol shall be subject to these restrictions.
- Face coverings will be required in all state government buildings effective August 5th.
- Local governments are encouraged to pass a face covering ordinance.
- Certain mass gatherings are now permitted to open (festivals, parades, concerts, theaters, stadiums, arenas, coliseums, auditoriums, grandstands, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, concert halls, dance, halls, performing arts centers, parks, racetracks, or similarly operated entities) but are required to implement Accelerate SC guidelinesincluding (but not limited to):
- Attendance may not exceed 50% of the certificate of occupancy issued by the fire marshal – or 250 persons – whichever is less.
- Require the wearing of masks or face coverings as a condition of admission or participation
- Enact social distancing, cleaning and hygiene practices as recommended by Accelerate SC
- End the sale of alcohol at 11:00 PM
- Businesses, event organizers, and others responsible for events that may exceed the occupancy rules may receive clarification allowing the event to proceed if they can satisfactorily demonstrate an ability to comply with federal and state COVID-19 procedures and protocols to the Department of Commerce.
On Tuesday this week, the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee, co-chaired by Representatives Todd Rutherford and Gary Simrill, held its first meeting. Other members of the Committee include Representatives: Beth Bernstein, Chandra Dillard, Shannon Erickson, Wendell Gilliard, Chris Hart, Max Hyde, Mandy Kimmons, Cezar McKnight, Chris Murphy, Weston Newton, Tommy Pope, Garry Smith, Leon Stavrinakis, Ivory Thigpen, Will Wheeler, and Chris Wooten.
The Committee is charged with developing proposals to improve issues of equitable justice and law enforcement reform. During this first hearing, the group heard from four speakers:
- Andrea L. Dennis (Associate Dean for Faculty Development & John Byrd Martin Chair of Law, University of Georgia School of Law). Her focuses included:
- Law Enforcement Training and Accountability (Reform)
- Accountability – Civil Suites, Criminal Processing, Citizens input, Civil Asset Forfeiture, Criminal Processing, Bail Reform, Sentencing Reform
- The Honorable Duffie Stone (South Carolina 14th Circuit Solicitor). He emphasized several items that can be done quickly:
- Body camera funding and training – evidence must be sent to prosecutors immediately
- Independent investigations to review misconduct allegations that are not properly documented and not leading to death
- Central location for data collection
- Law on unlawful use of force needs to be clarified
- Citizen’s Arrest – SC laws need to be changed
- Strengthen treatment courts and drug courts (underfunded in some counties)
- SC has the 2nd highest population in jail for drug charges
- Some convicts need to be in jail; convicts need to serve at least 85% of their time given, community service should be given for those that get early release or parole
- Re-entry Board should be created to start working with offenders on reforming to allow for success for re-entry into community and workplace.
- The Honorable Byron E. Gipson (South Carolina 5th Circuit Solicitor). He stressed:
- Body cameras are needed, and information must be transferred immediately to solicitors, prosecutions must be made quicker (no longer 6+ weeks), funding for database system
- Three P’s for reform – “why do we do the things we do?”
- Seth W. Stoughton (Associate Professor of Law, University of South Carolina School of Law). He focused on:
- Public safety infrastructure
- Data collection
- Use of force
- Tactical teams/forced entry
- Police misconduct
- Officer wellness
- Policing for profit
The following subcommittees were created and charged with providing reports to the full committee by September 15th:
- Law Enforcement Officer Training, Tactics, Standards and Accountability – Members are Representatives: Wooten, Thigpen, Dillard, and Ericson
- Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform – Members are Representatives: McKnight, Pope, Garry Smith, and Wheeler
- Criminal Statutory Reform – Members are Representatives: Bernstein, Gilliard, Hyde, Weston Newton
- Sentencing Reform – Members are Representatives: Hart, Kimmons, Murphy and Stavrinakis
4. Chamber Pushes for Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales
On May 21, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce presented a letter of support to Sumter County Council to include a referendum on the November general election ballot, that will allow the citizens of Sumter County to vote on Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales. In 2014 the Chamber led the effort to include On-Premise Alcohol sales in restaurants inside the City limits. Sunday Retail Alcohol sales will allow grocery stores, convenience stores and those with a valid permit to sale beer and wine on Sundays within the County of Sumter. Leading up to the general election, the Chamber will be communicating the importance of the referndum from an economic impact perspective along with what a yes or a no vote will mean. Often times the wording on these referendums are confusing so it will be vital that the citizens know what they are voting for on the ballot. For more information on this effort please call me at 803-775-1231 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day,
Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce