200319 COVID19-01

Information on the prevention and treatment of the Coronavirus is developing rapidly.

This page is to inform constituents about how the COVID-19 Coronavirus is affecting South Carolina by consolidating information for you, your family, or your business. While we work to fight this disease, please remember to stay calm. Practice social distancing and observe good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the virus, and help others in need if you can.

All of us are concerned about the pandemic and its impact on our health, our families, our businesses, our community, our economy, and our livelihood. Together, and with God’s help, we will get through this and we will be stronger as a state and as a nation.

Sen. Larry Grooms

COVID-19 Case Status, Prevention, and Treatment

COVID-19 in South Carolina:

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is actively monitoring the number of confirmed cases in South Carolina by county. To see the data, visit the SCDHEC report on Monitoring and Testing for the most up-to-date numbers.

Recommendations to Prevent the Spread of Illness:

To prevent the spread of illness, remember to do the following:

  • Practice good hygiene;
  • Wash your hands;
  • Cover your cough;
  • Those who feel sick should stay home from school and work and not attend public gatherings;
  • If you recently traveled to a high risk country, you should self-quarantine for 14 days. To learn more, go here.

What To Do If You Are Experiencing Symptoms?

Here is guidance if you have symptoms:

  • Residents who are showing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should call their personal doctor or healthcare provider. If you do not have a primary care physician, MUSC Health is providing free telehealth screening to all South Carolinians. Anyone experiencing symptoms can visit any telehealth provider on this website here and use the promo code COVID19 to be screened without having to leave home.
  • Medical facilities and doctors offices ask that everyone call ahead so they can make arrangements to protect others when people come in for testing.
  • Based on your symptoms and exposure history (if any), medical professionals will decide if you need to be evaluated in person and may confer with state authorities about where and how to do the testing. They will give you instructions on how to arrive in a way that limits exposure.
  • Testing for COVID-19 can be requested by any physician or through a telehealth screening, according to DHEC.
  • All states now have a public health lab testing for coronavirus, and an increasing number of commercial and academic labs are testing as well.
  • If you have fever, cough, and other symptoms, it is possible that you may have the normal flu and not the COVID19-Coronavirus. If you have symptoms, it is very important that you call your healthcare provider and avoid exposing other people when you have symptoms.
  • The DHEC Care Line is available to provide general information about COVID-19 by calling 1-855-472-3432 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week.

Closures and Restrictions

Governor McMaster's Emergency Management Order:

Governor McMaster issued this order as follows:

  • All state government offices shall remain open for operation during their normal business hours;
  • Restaurants are now open with outdoor facilities only
  • Visitation at state and local correctional facilities in all 46 counties shall be suspended immediately;
  • DHEC shall immediately restrict visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities with the exception of end of life situations
  • State price gouging laws shall go into effect immediately;
  • The State Emergency Management Plan shall be activated.

 

Large Public Gathering Restriction:

Governor McMaster also ordered the postponement or cancellation of large public gatherings of more than 100 people. That does not apply to state or local government bodies or private businesses and employers. The CDC recommends no gatherings more than 10 people. Governor McMaster also ordered that events of more than 50 people in any state, county, city, or other publicly-owned facility are prohibited through March 31, except for essential government functions.

Food Service Restrictions:

Governor McMaster issued this Order that restricts restaurants and bars from providing sit down dining in both indoor and out door areas through March 31. Food service via take out, drive through, or delivery service is allowed.

Other Contents of Latest Order:

Governor McMaster’s Order also stipulates the following:

  • State agencies are authorized to waive any regulation that hinders their ability to address the coronavirus crisis.
  • All state tax returns and payments due April 1 – June 1 will now be due June 1, 2020. This includes South Carolina Individual Income Taxes, Corporate Income Taxes, Sales and Use Tax, Admissions Tax, and other taxes filed and paid with the SCDOR.
  • The South Carolina National Guard will coordinate and plan with hospitals to create contingency plans for infrastructure needs.
  • SCDHEC will waive regulations so hospitals may use medical and nursing school students to help with COVID-19 response needs.
  • Governor McMaster directed that there be no termination of utility service during the state of emergency. Read his letter here.

 

Important Information for Individuals and Families

Unemployment and COVID-19:

To learn more about how to apply for unemployment benefits, go here. For questions related to the Coronavirus and employment-related benefits, go here.

Health Insurance and COVID-19:

The S.C. Department of Insurance has provided information as to health insurance companies doing business in South Carolina and coverage. To learn more, go here.

Veterans and COVID-19:: The Veterans Administration has created this website with resources for veterans.

Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for Households:

The CDC issued this guidance on cleaning and disinfecting homes.

Children and COVID-19:

The CDC issued this information as to children and COVID-19.

Pregnant/Breastfeeding:

The CDC issued this information for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Local Grocery Stores:

Several stores have been out of staples including toilet paper. Stores are stocking as quickly as they can and several stores are hiring more workers to help with stocking and cleaning.

Important Information for Businesses

S.C. OSHA Guidance on Preparing the Workplace for Coronavirus:

SC OSHA wants to ensure that all employers and employees in our state have access to important information about preparing workplaces for COVID-19 (coronavirus). Federal OSHA has published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 to help companies respond in the event of coronavirus in the workplace. The documents provide practical guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and contain information on safe work practices and appropriate personal protective equipment based on the risk level of exposure. In addition, Federal OSHA launched a COVID-19 webpage. If you have questions, you may contact SC OSHA at (803) 896-7665.

S.C. DHEC Employer Guidance on Coronavirus:

DHEC issued this guidance to help businesses make informed decisions related to the virus.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans:

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans, through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19. This program is designed to help the business community address financing and cash flow issues, which may exceed the underwriting requirements for local financial institutions. On March 17, Governor McMaster submitted the required request for assistance to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make loans available in the form of SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for eligible small businesses located in all 46 counties of the state. After approval of our state-certification by the SBA, the South Carolina Department of Commerce and South Carolina Emergency Management Division websites will have explicit instructions on how to fill out the SBA loan application. Please note this is a loan—not a grant—and will still carry underwriting requirements. If a small business is interested in obtaining an SBA loan, please contact Chuck Bundy at the South Carolina Department of Commerce at cbundy@sccommerce.com or 803-737-0440.

Department of Labor -- FMLA and COVID-19:

The Department of Labor issued this information bulletin for guidance on FMLA.

Filing Temporary Unemployment Claims for Your Employees:

If a business owner is planning a temporary lay off related to the Coronavirus, guidance for that can be found here.

Business Interruption Insurance:

Some local businesses may have business interruption insurance. There may be exclusions in the policy as to business loss from a virus. Business owners and staff can contact the SC Department of Insurance at (803) 737-6805 to request a policy review if needed.

Payment of Taxes — Extensions

SC Department of Revenue:

Various tax filing and payment deadlines starting on April 1, 2020 were extended. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until June 1, 2020 to file and pay taxes for returns that are due between April 1, 2020 and June 1, 2020. To learn more, go here.

Internal Revenue Service:

Payment deadline of April 15, 2020 extended to July 15, 2020. To learn more, go here.

Other Information and Updates

Additional Funding Approved for SCDHEC:

The State Legislature has approved Governor McMaster’s request to make $45 million in state funds from the 2019/2020 Contingency Reserve Fund immediately available for SCDHEC to use to coordinate the state’s response in combatting the virus. Any funds not utilized by DHEC would be returned to the Contingency Reserve Fund upon completion of the department’s efforts. After passing the Senate, the House of Representatives approved the request on Thursday, with McMaster signing the bill only 15 minutes later.

S.C. Medical and Licensing Boards Issue Emergency Licensing:

The SC Board of Medical Examiners and the SC Board of Nursing have procedures in place to temporarily license individuals in times of an emergency. This is an available tool to combat the virus in our state. Here are the specifics:

  • The Medical Board can expedite temporary licensure for out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, and respiratory care practitioners within 24 hours. There is no fee for these 90-day temporary licenses. You can apply for licensure by clicking here.
  • For nurses, South Carolina is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), which means registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) from these 32 other states who have multi-state licenses can work in South Carolina at any time. All states in the Southeast are part of the Nursing Compact. Additionally, the Board of Nursing can expedite licensure of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), as well as RNs and LPNs from non-compact states. The expedited licensure only requires information from the hospital or other health provider or organization that is requesting the additional nursing staff from another state. The license is good for 15 days, but may be renewed. There is no fee associated with this expedited, temporary license. You can apply for licensure by clicking here.

President Trump's Emergency Order:

President Trump issued this Order declaring a national emergency. To see updates from the White House on this, go here.

SRS and Department of Energy:

SRS is fully operational at this time. SRS and DOE officials have taken these steps to protect workers:

  • Activated the SRS Infectious Disease Response Team and implemented a command structure that includes 24-hour staffing and situation monitoring as well as daily leadership calls to ensure all issues are being appropriately addressed.
  • Followed the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and shared specific guidance with our employees on the importance of respecting social distancing, proper hand washing and personal hygiene.
  • Initiated remote screening for all returning international travelers and a robust policy to avoid non-essential travel has been put in place.
  • Canceled tours and visits to SRS through the end of April.
  • Limited in-person meetings to less than 10 employees, larger meetings are being conducted via telephone.
  • Instituted extra cleaning of our facilities and put contracts in place to handle more extensive sanitizing.

Be Cautious of Scams:

Be alert to possible disaster-related scams such as fraudulent phone calls or price gouging and report any suspected scams to the S.C. Attorney General by going here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Direct Payments to Individuals

How will I get paid?

Single adults with Social Security numbers who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will get the full amount of $1,200. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less will receive a total of $2,400. And taxpayers filing as head of household will get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married people who have no children and earn $198,000. According to the Senate Finance Committee, a family with two children will no longer be eligible for any payments if its income surpassed $218,000.

What if I claim myself as a dependent?

 

You can’t get a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you’re an adult. In any given family and most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number to be eligible. There is an exception for members of the military.


When will the payments be made?

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expected most people to get their payments within three weeks of March 27th. For now, there is only one payment scheduled. Future bills could order up additional payments, though.


Do I need to apply to get paid?

 

You will not need to apply to receive a payment. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it will transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has.


What happens if I don’t get paid, but believe I was supposed to?

 

You will get a paper notice in the mail no later than a few weeks after your payment has been disbursed. That notice will contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made. If you couldn’t locate the payment at that point, it would be time to contact the I.R.S. using the information on the notice.


I have not filed my tax return recently. Is that a problem?

 

If you have not filed your tax returns recently, it could affect your ability to get a payment. If you have not filed, file a return immediately, at least for 2018, according to the I.R.S. website. “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks,” the site says.


What about money on returns I cannot pay?

 

If you’re worried about money that you owe that you cannot pay, the I.R.S. recommends consulting a tax professional who can help you request an alternative payment plan or some other resolution.

Do I have to pay taxes on the payment?

You will not have to pay taxes on the payment.

Unemployment Benefits

How do I apply for unemployment?

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) has advised individuals filing initial unemployment claims to visit dew.sc.gov and click on the MyBenefits Login in the upper right-hand corner. In this system, the claimant submits their initial claim where it is adjudicated and, when eligible for benefits, the individual will log back in each week to certify that they are still unemployed.

For the regular unemployment insurance process, once the claimant has filed their initial claim, they would be required to conduct two job searches per week in the SC Works Online Services system. South Carolina has waived the work search requirement temporarily so individuals will not have to work in both systems. They will only need to use the dew.sc.gov website.

According to SCDEW, in the last three weeks, 150,000+ South Carolinians have successfully filed new claims. On their website, they have created a COVID-19 Resource Hub where information and guides are updated daily.

How has unemployment changed?

The plan wraps in far more workers than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed people and part-time workers.

The bottom line: Those who are unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits.

How much will I receive above what is normally paid?

Benefits will be expanded in an attempt to replace the average worker’s paycheck. The average worker earns about $1,000 a week, and unemployment benefits often replace roughly 40 to 45 percent of that. The expansion will pay an extra amount to fill the gap. Under the plan, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit.

I am self-employed. Am I eligible?

Yes, self-employed people are newly eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benefit amounts will be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. Self-employed workers will also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government.

I am a part-time worker who lost my job. Am I eligible?

Yes. Part-time workers are eligible for benefits.

My child’s daycare shut down and I cannot work. Am I eligible?

If you rely on a school, daycare or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent or another household member so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you are eligible.

I have been told to self-quarantine by a health care professional, or I cannot go to work because of mandatory stay at home orders. Am I eligible?

People who must self-quarantine are covered. The legislation also says that individuals who are unable to get to work because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the outbreak are eligible.

I work at a business that was shut down because of the coronavirus. Am I eligible?

Yes. If you are unemployed, partly unemployed or unable to work because your employer closed down, you’re covered under the bill.

Who is not covered?

Workers who can work from home, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave are not covered. New entrants to the workforce who cannot find jobs are also ineligible.

How long are the payments for?

South Carolina provides unemployment payments for 20 weeks. The bill provides all eligible workers with an additional 13 weeks.

How long is this in effect?

Expanded coverage would be available to workers who were newly eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks starting on Jan. 27, 2020, and through Dec. 31, 2020.

I’m already receiving unemployment benefits. Will I receive any help?

Yes. Even if you’re already receiving unemployment benefits for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, your state-level benefits will still be extended by 13 weeks. You will also receive the extra $600 weekly benefit from the federal government.

My unemployment just ran out. Can I sign up again?

Yes. If you’ve exhausted your benefits, eligible workers can generally reapply. But how much you get and for how long depends on the state where you worked. Everyone gets at least another 13 weeks, along with the extra $600 payment.

Student Loans

What is being done for student loan forgiveness?

Before this bill was passed, the federal government had already waived two months of payments and interest for many federal student loan borrowers.

Now, until Sept 30th, there will be automatic payment suspensions for any student loan held by the federal government. Check your account online in the coming weeks. Once you are logged in, look for the current amount due. There, you should be able to see if the servicer has reset its billing systems so that you are showing no payment due.

Am I eligible?

If you’ve borrowed money from the federal government — a so-called direct loan — in the past 10 years, you’re eligible. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 90 percent of loans (in dollar terms) will be eligible.

Older Federal Family Educational Loans (F.F.E.L.) that the U.S. Department of Education does not own are not eligible, nor are Perkins loans, loans from state agencies, or loans from private lenders like Discover, Sallie Mae, and Wells Fargo. The holders of all those kinds of loans may be offering their assistance programs.

Will I get a notice or will this be automatic?

Within a few weeks, you are supposed to receive a notice indicating what has happened with your federal loans. You can choose to keep paying down your principal if you want. Then, after Aug. 1, you should get multiple notices letting you know about the cessation of the suspension period and that you may be eligible to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.

Will there be additional interest charged during this time?

The bill says that interest “shall not accrue” on the loan during the suspension period.

At the end of the suspension, keep a close eye on what your loan servicer does (or does not do) to put you back into your previous repayment mode. Servicer errors are common.

Retirement Accounts

I have heard some retirement rules are suspended. Which ones?

For the calendar year 2020, no one will have to take a required minimum distribution from any individual retirement accounts or workplace retirement savings plans, like a 401(k). That way, you aren’t forced to sell investments that may have fallen in value, which would lock in losses. If you don’t need the money now, you can let the investments sit and hope that they recover. Pensions are not impacted.

What if I have to take money out of my I.R.A. or workplace retirement plan early?

You can withdraw up to $100,000 this year without the usual 10 percent penalty, as long as it’s because of the outbreak.

You will also be able to spread out any income taxes that you owe over three years from the date you took the distribution. And if you want, you could put the money back into the account before those three years are up, even though the rules may normally keep you from making a contribution that large.

This exception applies only to coronavirus-related withdrawals. You qualify if you tested positive, a spouse or dependent did or you experienced a variety of other negative economic consequences related to the pandemic. Employers can allow workers to self-certify that they are qualified to pull money from a workplace retirement account.

Can I still borrow from my 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan?

Yes, and you can take out twice the usual amount. For 180 days after the bill passes, with certification that you’ve been affected by the pandemic, you’ll be able to take out a loan of up to $100,000. Usually, you can’t take out more than half your balance, but that rule is suspended.

Small Business Support

What loan is available?

Any business with less than 500 employees is eligible for a tax-free, federal guaranteed (no-interest) loan.

Who is eligible for the loan?

All states and territories are eligible. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and sole proprietors are also eligible.

Priority will be given to businesses in under-served and rural markets, including veterans and members of the military community, women, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and businesses that are less than two years old, read the text of the bill.

When do I have to pay the loan back?

The loan is forgivable, meaning it doesn’t have to be paid back, during what is called a “covered period.” This period is eight weeks, chosen by the small business owner and the lending agency, between February 15, 2020, and June 30, 2020.

All loan payments are deferred for one year.

How much am I eligible to loan?

The total amount of this forgivable loan, which is more akin to a grant, is 2.5 times the businesses’ monthly payroll. The maximum amount that can be given to a single business is $10 million.

All operating costs, including employee payroll (and other forms of compensation), employee health care, interest on the mortgage, rent, utilities, and debt payments are included. The quarterly payroll cost for an employee cannot be more than $33,333 (i.e., the equivalent of an annual salary of $100,000).

I had to lay off employees. How will that impact my loan amount?

If a small business had to lay off employees during the covered period, the forgivable amount of the loan will also be reduced proportionally. For example, if a small business cut back half of their workforce, the amount of the loan will be reduced by 50%. If employee salaries were reduced by more than 25%, the loan will be reduced proportionally. But, if all employees are rehired and their full salaries restored by June 30, no reduction of the loan will occur.

How quickly will the loans be available?

To expedite the loan process, personal guarantees have been waived. All that is required is a “good faith certification” that your business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the funds will be used according to the guidelines.

Senator Marco Rubio told Forbes that they hope to make the loans available two weeks after bill passage, around April 8th.

Where do I apply for a loan?

You can apply by visiting the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Assistance site, which you can find here.

What is the 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit?

Employers are eligible for a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages. The credit is available to employers whose businesses were disrupted due to virus shutdowns and those that had a decrease in gross receipts of 50 percent or more when compared to the same quarter last year. The credit can be claimed for employees who are retained but not currently working due to the crisis. The amount of the tax credit is 50% of the qualifying wages of the employer. Qualifying wages for each employee are limited to $10,000 for all quarters and wages paid to certain employees are subject to additional limitations or exclusions. Also, the credit is not available if the employer is a borrower under the Payroll Protection Loan Program.

How are Social Security payroll tax payments impacted?

The CARES Act permits employers and self-employed individuals (other than taxpayers who have had indebtedness forgiven under the CARES Act) to delay payment of the 6.2% employer share of the Social Security tax (but not the 1.45% employer share of the Medicare) until January 1, 2021, with 50 percent owed on December 31, 2021, and the other half owed on December 31, 2022.

What resources are available in South Carolina specifically?

The South Carolina Small Business Development Center’s mission is to advance South Carolina’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses and they are working to help business owners. Online they have a COVID-19 specific resource page with service offerings and resources to protect small businesses. Their network of consultants throughout the state is available via phone, email and online to provide disaster assistance should your business experience economic injury or other unintended consequences.

Where can I find more information?

Additional resources have been assembled by the Small Business Investor Alliance and can be found here.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has put together a list of frequently asked questions that can be found here.

Forbes’ Small Business Relief Tracker, with additional funding, grants, and resources for small business owners, can be found here.

Foreclosures and Evictions

What protections are in place to protect me from losing my home?

The bill includes housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters.

The bill states that anyone facing financial hardship from coronavirus shall be given a forbearance on a federally backed mortgage loan of up to 60 days, which can be extended for four periods of 30 days each. The legislation says that servicers of federally backed mortgage loans may not begin the foreclosure process for 60 days from March 18.

The bill also does not allow fees, penalties or additional interest to be charged as a result of delayed payments. It includes similar protections for those with multifamily federal mortgage loans, allowing them to receive a 30-day forbearance and up to two 30-day extensions.

Those with federally backed mortgage loans who have tenants would also not be allowed to evict tenants solely for failure to pay rent for a 120-day period, and they may not charge fees or penalties to tenants for failing to pay rent.