Smaller SC Cities and Counties hope for Covid-19 ReliefApr 29, 2020 11:25AM ● By David Dykes
By L. C. Leach III
South Carolina cities and counties can expect some form of economic relief due to coronavirus ― but no one knows exactly when or how it will happen.
Of the state’s 269 incorporated municipalities and 46 counties, only Greenville County qualified for help from the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus COVID-19 relief package.
Congress stipulated that only U.S. cities and counties with populations over 500,000 residents could apply directly for $150 billion in emergency funding for state, local and tribal governments, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
That means that until other funding means and sources are available, other South Carolina cities and counties will have to hold out ― and hope that relief will come soon.
“The coronavirus pandemic is causing harm to all of South Carolina,” said Tim Winslow, executive director of the South Carolina Association of Counties (SCAC) in Columbia. “I’m not sure how one would determine which areas have been hardest hit, but many rural counties are having a difficult time because of a lack monetary resources and health care.”
McCormick County is one. As the state’s smallest and second-least populous county with 9,400 people, its badge of honor during COVID-19 is that it has not had to furlough any employee.
“When you are as small as we are, employees wear many hats, but we still have to be funded,” said Mayor Roy Smith, Jr. “So, unless we get some government stimulus relief, the effects of COVID-19 that we have been trying to handle could prove to be the biggest obstacle to our future.”
And Joe Nichols, administrator for Union, added while the South Carolina city, too, has managed to keep all of its staff so far, the biggest revenue loss has come from utilities.
“Some of our customers will not be able to pay three and four months of past-due utility bills,” Nichols said. “We also have industrial customers as well as retail and commercial facilities closed. And with hospitality and accommodations taxes being almost nonexistent, this will have very negative effects for small cities such as Union for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.”
But the good news, Winslow said, is that help is coming.
Among the most promising efforts is accelerateSC, a new advisory team created by Gov. Henry McMaster to consider and recommend economic revitalization plans for South Carolina.
That initiative, with the backing of SCAC and the hope of more Congressional funding for smaller cities and counties, is what places like Union and McCormick County are counting on to make it through COVID-19.
“I believe a second stimulus package will be approved ― but even if it isn’t, I am hopeful that the federal government will free up the use of the CARES act money,” Winslow said. “And we have reached out to the governor’s office and leadership in both the House and Senate, regarding the need for assistance for all of South Carolina. And we have been assured that they are going to help.”