March 20, 2020
On Tuesday SC DHEC Director Richard Toomey testified before the Senate Finance Committee as they took up H.4014 stripping the previous language and replacing it with $45 million from the contingency reserve fund for the state’s fight against COVID-19. The funding is for the next six months.
The legislation directs the following:
- $14.5 million to cover additional staffing to help with disease surveillance and investigation, lab testing and information phone lines
- $14.8 million on protective equipment for health care workers
- $5.2 million to cover technology, lab supplies, travel and cleaning costs
- $5 million for unanticipated costs based on the spread of COVID-19
- $2.5 million on an education campaign through television and radio ads and printed materials
- $1.7 million to cover the costs to quarantine and support indigent patients
- $1.3 million to cover costs for lab samples and distribution of items from the Strategic National Stockpile
There’s a wealth of information for business and your employees including daily updates on DHEC’s website.
Once they finished with H.4014 the Senate Finance Committee, in a purely preventative measure, moved on to H.3411 another House bill where they stripped the language and inserted a continuing resolution where if for any reason the House and Senate couldn’t return to Columbia before July 1 (when the new fiscal year begins) the state government would remain open with funding levels of the current year. Both bills moved to the floor for debate at 2:00 p.m.
The Senate met at 2:00 p.m. and unanimously passed H.4014 allowing DHEC access to the $45 million. Then the Senate debated for over an hour H.3411 the continuing resolution. More than a handful of Senators didn’t want to move forward with it because they felt it was to reactionary at the time. They finally gave it second reading and then Senators Leatherman and Massey agreed to contest the bill leaving it on the third reading slot on the calendar and they can take it up if needed.
Finally, on Tuesday Governor McMaster signed an executive order mandating bars and restaurants close their dining rooms beginning Wednesday. They will be allowed to open for deliver and take-out orders.
The Governor also asked (not mandated) that all private businesses allow their employees to work from home remotely.
On Thursday the SC House met in Columbia to concur with the Senate amendments on H.4014 by a vote of 121-0, meaning the bill now goes to the Governor’s desk where he will sign it into law immediately and free the $45 million for DHEC to use ASAP.
Before they adjourned the Speaker let the body know that when they adjourn they will adjourn indefinitely at the call of the Chair. The Speaker said he will be in contact with the President of the Senate, Harvey Peeler on plans to return. Speaker Lucas said he will re-evaluate in two weeks barring some emergency need.
The Governor will hold a press conference on COVID-19 later today at 4:30 p.m.