SPECIAL REPORT, Monday March 23, 2020
In the last couple of weeks, it seems like our entire world has changed as we have all had to adapt to a new reality of “social distancing”, working from home, school closures, empty grocery stores, and then re-adapting as circumstances change yet again. For the time being, the General Assembly has postponed meeting aside from brief meetings to address urgent matters. While we are home, we are involved in regular meetings and briefings with state and local officials who are working to get ahead of the situation.
Although the legislature may be largely inactive for the time being, I will be sharing information that may be of importance to this area so watch for periodic updates via these emails.
I want to begin by sharing something positive that may not make headlines but is so vital to our ability to ride out this storm. I am deeply touched at the patience and charity shown by many in our community who have come together to help in this time of need. All of our first responders, health care organizations and professionals are working so hard to help everyone in need. Also, contrary to the friction we often see in Washington, the collaboration between state and local officials (as well as federal officials on the ground in our communities) has been nearly flawless.
Many of our hospitals are running low on vital supplies. N-95 breathing masks and gloves (latex, vinyl, etc.) are in short supply and in some cases, medical staff are forced to work without any kind of protection. If they get sick, we are ALL in trouble. Many people and businesses own these for things like painting, interior remodeling, construction and yard work. If you can spare any of these items, please consider delivering them to staff at a nearby hospital.
Here is some useful information:
On Thursday, we returned for a special Legislative session to vote on a $45 million supplemental funding package to provide SCDHEC the funds to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We quickly acted on Governor McMaster’s request to make funds available for DHEC and less than 15 minutes after we unanimously passed the legislation,
Governor McMaster signed it into law. This is just the first step in what will be a long journey of protecting the citizens of our state in combating COVID-19.
What will those funds be used for?
This legislation appropriates $45 million from our Contingency Reserve Fund that is saved for emergencies like this and transfers it to the Executive Budget Office for use by DHEC:
- Staffing ($14,598,760): DHEC needs additional staffing to support COVID-19 disease surveillance and contact investigation, laboratory testing, and information phone lines.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ($14,806,800): PPE for DHEC’s healthcare workers to prevent spread of infection.
- Staff Support ($5,282,420): Operating costs such as technology, lab supplies and reagents, travel, and facility cleaning.
- Education Campaign ($2,500,000): Support for TV/Radio airtime and printed materials.
- Quarantine ($1,703,580): Cost to quarantine and support indigent patients.
- Transportation ($1,394,958): Cost to courier lab samples and distribution of items from the Strategic National Stockpile.
- Contingency ($5,000,000): We have built in about 10% for unanticipated costs or changing assumptions based on disease spread.
This legislation also instructs DHEC to provide oversight and reporting of their expenditures to the State’s Executive Budget Office. We will continue to monitor the situation and do everything we can to provide financial assistance to those affected by COVID-19.
Currently, the SC House is adjourned at the call of the Speaker. All committee meetings and hearings have been suspended and staff is working remotely. The House budget is in the Senate - and will most probably need a re-write due to the economic downturn accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. The Santee Cooper sale vs. restructure debate is on hold and other vitally important bills like Education Reform are on pause.
I look forward to returning when we can to complete this work. When things settle down, we will certainly have much to do.
In closing, I want to again thank many of you who are patiently enduring these difficult times as well as those of you who are doing things, be they large or small, to help each other through these times. If I can be of assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me at