Wednesday, April 7, 2021 Florence Chamber COVID-19 Business Update
The information below is offered by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce through various information and media sources, including the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration.
President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Unveiled
President Biden announced an infrastructure plan last week costing $2 trillion over eight years and paid for over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and increasing taxes on companies’ foreign earnings. The tax changes would revamp or replace much of the international tax structure that Congress enacted four years ago.
Details of the plan are here. Highlights of the plan include:
- $621 billion to modernize transportation infrastructure (roads, bridges, ports, airports, public transit, electric vehicle development),
- $400 billion to help care for the aging and those with disabilities,
- $580 billion to boost the manufacturing industry, R&D and job training,
- $300 billion on retrofitting and building affordable housing and upgrading schools, and
- $300 billion to expand broadband access, upgrade electric grids, improve drinking water infrastructure.
While passage of a federal infrastructure plan has long-been a priority for many business groups, including the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, there is strong opposition from many corners about paying for the plan with tax increases that create barriers to job creation and economic growth. Stay tuned for more updates.
President Biden Signs PPP Extension
Last Tuesday, President Biden signed an extension to the PPP program, moving the application deadline for both first- and second-draw loans from March 31st to May 31st. The law also extends authorization of loans to June 30 to give the Small Business Administration (SBA) more time to process applications.
Nationally, as of March 28, 2021 the program has approved more than 8.7 million loans for more than $734 billion since it was created last year, according to SBA data. 78.4% are for $50,000 and under, and the average loan is $59,000 (2021 data only).
SC Legislative Update
The past week's highlights of Chamber legislative priorities include:
- COVID-19 Liability Protections for Businesses: Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB72, a bill which will protect businesses, health care providers, schools and government entities from lawsuits brought as a result of the pandemic. This now makes South Carolina the last Southeastern state without such protections, putting us at a competitive disadvantage with our neighbors. We look forward to working with the House Judiciary Committee to move South Carolina’s COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act (S.147) forward when the House returns.
- DHEC Restructuring S.2 (SUPPORT SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE AMENDMENT): The Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee met for the first time this week on this bill and quickly passed an amendment that made changes to the environmental restructuring portion of the bill and reflects input from the business community, including the SC Chamber. Rather than splitting DHEC’s current environmental functions between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources as was specified in the bill as introduced, the amendment shifts the functions to a new Department of Environmental Services. The subcommittee plans to have several meetings on this bill over the next few weeks before they take action to move the bill forward; the next meeting will be on Wednesday April 7th, 30 minutes after the Senate session adjourns.
- Employer's Ability to Incentivize/Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine S.177 (NOT OPPOSING BILL WITH COMMITTEE AMENDMENT): The Senate Medical Affairs Committee passed this bill out with an amendment today which made significant changes to the original language. The bill, as amended, expressly allows employers to incentivize employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, require an employee with a COVID-19 diagnosis, exposure, or symptoms to quarantine, and require that employees who are treating or caring for vulnerable populations (individuals over 60 years of age or those with an underlying medical condition) to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- This week, the House and Senate will both be in session Tuesday through Thursday and will need to get many bills passed out of one body before the crossover deadline of April 10th – most importantly, the will need to pass the House if it has a shot at passing this year.