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Economists think aid bill could help ailing S.C. businesses make it to summer

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 8:48 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Economists say a new COVID-19 relief bill is welcome news as health officials in South Carolina are predicting a spike in cases this winter.

The proposed legislation includes $284 billion for forgivable loans for businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen says this is needed assistance as South Carolina’s unemployment rate has ticked up slightly for the first time since March.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, unemployment in the state has gone up from 4.2% to 4.4% from October to November. This is smaller than the 12.8% unemployment rate the state faced in April, but still, an early sign of a trend economists don’t want to see.

“It’s very different from what we saw in the spring and early summer because this time it is much more targeted towards leisure and hospitality. Because if we look at all other sectors in South Carolina they are almost back to the employment levels they were at back in February, so most other sectors of South Carolina have either fully recovered or almost fully recovered,” said Von Nessen.

Von Nessen is one of the lead researchers behind UofSC’s 2021 economic outlook and said consumer confidence has taken a hit as COVID-19 cases have increased in South Carolina. He said the restaurant and tourism industry needs the extra help to get them through a potentially rough winter.

“In 2021, the recovery in South Carolina is really about getting the leisure and hospital sector going again. And this package helps to bridge the gap between the struggle that they are going to through over the next couple of months until we can get this vaccine widely distributed,” he explained.

Von Nessen said if the vaccine is widely distributed by the summer, struggling businesses may be able to survive because of this relief bill.

According to CNBC, a small business could receive a second loan through the program if their revenue is down 25% and they have less than 300 employees.

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