S.C. political leaders review business assistance, reopening

Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham advocated for federal assistance targeted at “Main Street” America at a Womble Bond Dickinson-hosted webinar Thursday, while Gov. Henry McMaster said he looks forward to opening restaurants soon.

“It’s had a few hiccups, but it’s done far more good than most any program that has come out of Washington in a long time,” Graham said about federal small business loan assistance. “The opportunity zones that many of you are familiar with that were in the tax cut bill — that was Tim’s idea. So, when we put these two things together, these are proposals that really matter,” Graham said, adding that the program will have rescued millions of people from bankruptcy once all is said and done.

Graham and Scott said that as a second round of federal assistance is allocated to business owners through the Paycheck Protection Program and other funding streams, they will be working to carve out a share of federal funding resources for small and microbusinesses as the U.S. Senate reconvenes in Washington, D.C., next week.

Scott wants to see more resources funneled into the Paycheck Protection Program and a more thorough vetting of applicants.

All leaders at the event, moderated by Womble Bond Dickinson partner Stephanie Few, said that the state’s approach to balancing economic and public health interests since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the state helped prevent COVID-19-related deaths predicted as high as 1 million to 2 million people.

Scott reiterated that the state has fewer deaths and cases than many of its Southeastern neighbors and thanked McMaster and his team for their methodical approach.

“I think his slow progression toward trying to find a way to reopen South Carolina’s economy is consistent with the president’s three-phase plan,” Scott said. “Which basically, simply says when you’re seeing from a percentage basis a dropping in your cases and you have a hospital capacity that, today, is better than it was before COVID-19 started, and you’re able to identify the hotspots, so that you are able to isolate them to mitigate the spread of the virus, you’re in a position where you can take a look at starting the process to reopen. Henry is in that position.”

McMaster argued that his social distancing strategy was mindful of constitutional freedoms but also squelched the spread of the virus at businesses that garnered the largest crowds or human contact.

“We started with restaurants,” McMaster said, when discussing his tiered shutdown of businesses across the state. “And we are looking forward to backing out of that very soon.”

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