South Carolina Chamber asks lawmakers to help struggling businesses

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Published: May. 13, 2020 at 6:55 AM EDT
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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Relief for businesses continues to be a key focus for South Carolina lawmakers.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce released its relief and recovery plan for businesses, highlighting key areas that policies are needed in as businesses work to reopen.

One of the key focuses of the plan looks at the challenges that different types of businesses are facing as they work to reopen, and ways that lawmakers can help ease the difficulties businesses are facing.

Chamber of Commerce President Ted Pitts stressed that state lawmakers are going to need to roll their sleeves up over the next few months to provide not only relief but more guidance to all types of businesses as they begin to reopen.

"You think about a book store, it's not the same as a restaurant or another store that might sell a product," said Ed Albritton, the co-owner of Ed's Edition Books.

Gov. Henry McMaster allowed bookstores, like Albritton’s book store, to reopen on April 20th. However, Albritton said he decided to stay closed. He said that his staff needed more time to work through the unique challenges that come with reopening a bookstore.

"People walk through, they pull a book off, they put a book back, and we won't know that," Albritton said.

He said when they do reopen in the next few weeks, there will be Plexiglass at the cash register, only 6 customers will be allowed in the store at a time, and his employees will be wearing masks. He said his shop has taken these measures, but they haven't received much guidance from state health agencies.

"We haven't received anything in the mail," Albritton said.

That’s one focus of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce relief and recovery plan. One focus is to provide workplace safety guidelines. The plan calls them the “common-sense” guidelines to all businesses about how to keep customers and employees safe.

“An agency like DHEC kind of say, if you follow these guidelines, you are considered a safe workplace,” Pitts said.

It includes measures like proper sanitation, PPE for employees, and greater access to COVID-19 testing. The plan also proposes economic recovery through various measures, including state and local tax credits.

Pitts stressed that lawmakers can't wait to implement these relief policies until the Fall..

"I think the most important thing is the general assembly needs to be willing to come back and roll their sleeves up and go to work," Pitts said.

He added that these policies are needed to get the economy going again.

“I think this will provide some sense of relief for customers and employees that hey, my employer, or this business is following the guidelines and reasonably I feel like I can go in there,” Pitts said.

Albritton said that he thinks it will take time for people to feel comfortable shopping in stores again.

"I do think there is going to be quite a bit of reluctance, especially for our customer base, which tends to be a little older, and more cautious," Albritton said.

The Chamber of Commerce survey found that 47 percent of businesses said their number one challenge moving forward is the lack of demand.

For many business owners, like Albritton at Ed’s Edition Books, he said the challenge comes with not only getting people through the doors but making sure it’s safe before he opens his doors.

The Chamber of Commerce also highlighted the need for greater broadband access in rural areas for education and training.

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