How quickly the world has changed in two weeks. The General Assembly convened briefly last week to pass a $45 million dollar COVID-19 relief bill, but has not scheduled a date to return and will meet at the call of the House and Senate presiding officers.
Legislation unrelated to the virus is on hold as everyone figures out how to adjust to this new normal and how best to meet the needs of our community.
We will be shifting our policy and advocacy focus to COVID-19. There are many moving parts and the #PEPAdvocacy team is working with local and national partners to understand the impacts these proposals will have on our students, teachers, and schools. Look for more updates in the coming days.
COVID-19 Policy Update: Local
Greenville County Schools
- Greenville County Schools are currently closed through March 31, 2020.
- Meals are currently being provided to students 18 and under (and special needs adults up to age 21).
- Wi-fi is available in all schools’ parking lots and bus lines.
- The Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees will meet this Tuesday, March 24th, at 5:30 pm.
- The meeting will not be open to the public but will be live-streamed. We will share a link to the live-stream once we have it.
COVID-19 Policy Update: State
COVID-19 Relief Bill
- Governor McMaster signed into law a COVID-19 relief bill that made $45 million immediately available to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to combat the virus.
- The funds will be used by DHEC for personal protective equipment for staff, hiring additional staff and covering overtime, tests and supplies, covering the costs of quarantining low-income South Carolinians, and educating the public about the virus.
- The House has already passed its version of the 2020 – 2021 state budget, but the Senate will need to significantly rework the budget to reflect the economic impact of the pandemic on the state.
- The Senate passed a continuing resolution to maintain current funding levels in the event that a state budget is not passed by July 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year. This measure has not been taken up by the House.
COVID-19 Policy Update: Federal
So far, Congress has passed two pieces of COVID-19 related legislation:
- $8 Billion Emergency Spending Package
- The federal money is designated for coronavirus prevention, preparation, and response efforts.
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201)
- The legislation seeks to make coronavirus testing free and temporarily increases federal payments to state-run Medicaid programs.
- Additionally, the bill establishes paid-leave benefits for some U.S. employees*, boosts unemployment benefits, and bolsters the WIC and SNAP programs to address food insecurity.
- *Requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave if employees are unable to work because they’re subject to quarantine, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, are caring for someone who is sick, or have children in schools that are closed.
A third stimulus package failed to pass on Sunday (3/21) as negotiations continue between Senate Democrats and Republicans. The current Republican-drafted proposal would provide businesses and families relief to the tune of $1.8 trillion.
The version would:
- Appropriate $500 billion in loans and loan guarantees to businesses, states, and cities
- Appropriate $350 billion for small businesses in an effort to prevent layoffs
- Send $1,200 checks to some qualifying adults and $500 per child at a cost of $250 billion
- Provide $100 billion for hospitals and $250 billion for state unemployment programs.
While the Senate continues negotiations, House Speaker Pelosi has indicated that House Democrats will introduce their own stimulus bill.
The United Way of Greenville County is coordinating the community response to COVID-19 in partnership with Greenville County Schools and other non-profits. For community resources, volunteer opportunities, and ways to give, please visit the COVID-19 response landing page.
This interactive map tracking COVID-19 cases across the nation from the New York Times
South Carolina DHEC COVID-19 resources
Tips for working from home from the Greenville Chamber
This op-ed on the overnight shift to e-Learning that Greenville County Schools teachers managed from the Greenville News
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