Dear Chamber Members,
This week’s business update compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: Governor McMaster Seeks $300 per Week Federal Unemployment Supplement,Legislative Meetings Cover Criminal Justice Reform and CARES Act Allocations, and Telework Updates from USDOL and SCDOR.
Last Wednesday, Governor McMaster announced that South Carolina has now submitted its application for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Grant. Recall that on August 8th, President Trump announced that he had issued an executive order that would provide states an increased unemployment benefit supplement of $400 per week per individual (down from the CARES Act amount of $600 per week which expired at the end of July) – of this amount, states must submit 25% or $100 per week. The $44 billion in federal funds will come from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund and the increase will last until December 26, 2020 or when the funding runs out.
After several weeks of discussion with the US Department of Labor (DOL) and SC budget leaders about a lack of clarity regarding the required state contribution, DOL clarified that states are allowed to use their existing unemployment payments as the state match. Following this clarification, yesterday, the Governor authorized the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) to apply for the grant and the state is now awaiting approval of the grant application before implementation can begin.
If approved, for each week a claimant is eligible for at least $100 in state or federal unemployment benefits, the LWA will add $300. In South Carolina, the average weekly benefit is approximately $260. The payments will be retroactive to August 1, 2020 and will be in effect until the federal funds run out or until December 26th, whichever occurs first.
Criminal Justice Reform: Several subcommittees met this week including:
- Sentencing Reform Subcommittee: This subcommittee heard testimony from victims’ advocates groups and advocates for the incarcerated.
- Testimony included changes to mandatory minimum sentences which affect minority and economically disadvantaged communities, public distrust of the police department, and the need for more clarity for defendants on what their actual sentencing will be.
- House Law Enforcement Officer Training, Tactics, Standards and Accountability Subcommittee: This subcommittee held its first meeting and heard testimony from law enforcement agencies around the state.
- Testimony covered a range of topics, including use of body cameras, the need for more equipment, training and mental health support for officers, and the need to understand racial dynamics and regain community trust.
- The Criminal Statutory Review Subcommittee: This subcommittee also met yesterday and heard testimony regarding Hate Crimes legislation from members of the business community, law enforcement agencies, solicitors’ offices, and religious organizations.
- Most of the presenters testified that they support passing Hate Crimes Legislation in South Carolina, one of three states without a hate crimes law. There was also discussion about a special sentencing form being used to prove bias beyond a reasonable doubt.
House Ways and Means CARES Act Ad Hod Committee: Last Week, the House Ways and Means CARES Act Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Representative Kirkman Finlay, met for the first time to hear updates from the Executive Budget Office (EBO), the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), and the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW). A few highlights from the meetings are below:
- EBO presentation:
- CARES Act Recapitulation (Act 142) as of August 24, 2020
|Program||Amt Authorized||Amt Disbursed||Balance|
|Grant Mgmt Oversight||$10,000,000||$643,551.50||$9,356,448.50|
|Hospital Relief Fund||$125,000,000||$0||$125,000,000|
|State & Local Govt Reimb||$270,000,000||$3,334,387.88||$266,665,612.12|
|UI Trust Fund||$500,000,000||$500,000,000.00||$0|
|Dept. of Education||$222,700,000||$0||$222,700,000|
- Phase 2 Projected Expenditures – keep in mind the remaining Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Account Unallocated Balance is $668,172,613:
|Entity Type||Projected Expenditures|
|Higher Education Institutions||$72,603,482|
|Special Purpose Districts||$1,519,304|
|UI Trust Fund||TBD|
- ORS presentation: of the $50 million allocation for broadband/hotspots, ORS has about $41.3 million committed, and $8.7 million remaining.
- Online Learning Initiative:
- 82 public K-12 schools, 4 private K-12 schools, 2 charter schools, and 25 higher education institutions are participating.
- 100,000 hotspots/wired service orders have been received – 69,232 from Verizon, 23,455 from AT&T, 1,500 from T-Mobile, 390 Service Only, and 5,863 wired.
- Broadband Infrastructure Program
- 14 companies and 82 grant applications were funded – these will encompass projects in 30 counties
- $26,736,866.24 is the total amount awarded.
- A contract has been given to CostQuest. The mapping project is expected to be complete by November 2020.
- Online Learning Initiative:
- DEW presentation:
- UI Trust Fund Balance: $979.6 million as of August 24th (this includes the infusion of $500 million in CARES Act money which was deposited last week)
- Costs for businesses in 2021 and going forward are expected to be significantly higher than rates experienced in 2020, an average of 110% higher for 2021.
- Possible future tax rates:
|Tax Rate Class Example||2020 Cost Per Worker||2021 Cost Per Worker|
|12 (new employers)||$77.00||$176.85|
- The Greater Sumter Chamber and our State partners will continue to advocate for businesses to help mitigate the potential for higher tax rates.
- US Department of Labor (DOL): On Monday, the DOL Wage and Hour Division issued Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) No. 2020-5 regarding employers’ obligation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act) to track the number of hours of compensable work performed by employees who are teleworking or otherwise working remotely away from any worksite or premises controlled by their employers. This FAB reminds employers that it is their responsibility to track and pay for hours of compensable work done by employees. It also clarifies that employers must show reasonable diligence to acquire knowledge of employees’ unscheduled hours of work.
- SC Department of Revenue (DOR): Yesterday, DOR issued a new information letter, SC Information Letter #20-24, extending relief from the nexus requirement for state withholding for teleworkers through December 31, 2020. Recall that on May 15, 2020, DOR issued SC Information Letter #20-11 to announce temporary relief regarding a business’s establishment of nexus (income and sales) solely because an employee is temporarily working in a different work location due to COVID-19 and provided guidance with respect to employer withholding requirements for these employees. That relief was set to expire September 30, 2020. This new information letter extends those provisions through the end of this calendar year.
Have a great day,
Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce