We hope this message finds you safe as South Carolina slowly but surely moves towards the “next normal.” Governor McMaster has now allowed indoor restaurant dining and has set a date of next week for the opening of close-contact businesses like hair and nail salons.
We’re encouraged to see folks able to get back to work and provide for their families, but we know we have a long road ahead to jumpstart South Carolina’s economy and protect those most vulnerable to this virus.
Part of that road ahead involves ensuring continuity of essential state services. Accordingly, the South Carolina General Assembly returned to Columbia on Tuesday for the first time since early April, when disagreement over the future of the state’s debt-ridden utility, Santee Cooper, ground the legislative process to a halt. This time around, lawmakers passed a “Continuing Resolution” (CR) to keep state government funded at current levels until June 30th.
The CR also authorized millions in spending (both federal and state funds) for COVID-related emergency measures, including:
- $25 million to the Medical University of South Carolina to expand COVID-19 testing efforts.
- $155 million to a COVID-19 reserve account for public health and safety needs.
- $15 million to ensure the safety of poll workers and voters for the June 9th primary election.
Additionally, legislators passed a bill allowing registered South Carolina voters to vote absentee in the June 9th primary by selecting “State of Emergency” as the reason for the absentee ballot request.
The day-long session also generated plenty of heat, with controversial votes on citizen privacy concerns around contact tracing and the Governor’s authority to issue multiple states of emergency in the absence of legislative action.
Lawmakers will return to the Statehouse in September to craft a budget for FY 2020-21 based on updated revenue projections, as the long-term impacts of the COVID shutdown on South Carolina’s economy continue to unfold. Rest assured, Palmetto Promise will make a strong case for replenishing state reserves and restoring funds to South Carolina’s real economic engine: taxpayers.
In closing, let us echo U.S. Senator Tim Scott’s call to use a “prism of optimism” to cut through the fog of pandemic fear. New COVID cases in South Carolina have leveled off. Folks are slowly getting back to work. We have much to be grateful for. Free people exercising care for their neighbor have gotten this state through previous crisis, and that indomitable South Carolina spirit won’t fail us now.