South Carolina leaders are looking to limit liability for businesses as they reopen, require employers to implement a variety of safety precautions, invest in better internet access across the state, and increase spending to support the tourism industry.
Those are a few key points from accelerateSC, the highly anticipated report this week from Governor Henry McMaster’s COVID-19 advisory team. The report is the result of collaboration across state government and the General Assembly. It lays out a roadmap for how state lawmakers are likely to prioritize funding when they return the week of June 23, at which point they’ll decide how to spend $1.9 billion the state received from the federal government as part of its coronavirus relief program. Put another way, the rubber meets the road for accelerateSC later this month.
Here are a few highlights from accelerate SC:
- The report recommends “protecting businesses and industries acting in good faith and following federal and state laws and guidelines by clarifying workers’ compensation exclusivity and barring other liability from exposure or injury related to COVID-19 at a workplace or business absent clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, willful misconduct or intentional infliction of harm exists.” It also recommends a limited and temporary safe harbor from liability for manufacturers making PPE,” except for injuries resulting from reckless or intentional conduct. The report notes that the governor cannot limit liability by executive order and calls on the General Assembly to take up this issue.
- The report encourages continued use of telework and staggered shifts as examples of precautions employers can take to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in their workplaces. Within the workplace, it recommends temperature checks, keeping disinfectants readily available, performing routine cleaning, and following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidance. The report also instructs employers to have “clear policies and act affirmatively to send symptomatic workers home immediately and to help connect them to screening and testing,” two things accelerateSC also recommends the state ramp up further.
- Throughout the accelerateSC discussions, lack of internet access “was cited as one of the greatest obstacles to remote learning, working and access to telehealth.” The report recommends investing more than $100 million in a state broadband mapping plan, broadband infrastructure improvements, and mobile hotspots for more than 100,000 households.
- Spending on tourism in South Carolina was down 87% in mid-April, according to accelerateSC. While the report notes some tourism has picked back up since beaches and other attractions have opened, it recommends “that careful consideration be given to providing appropriate funding for tourism industry advertising and possible plans for increased traffic or diversification in offerings in our state’s airports.”
You can find more details on what accelerateSC recommends for businesses, schools, health care facilities, and individuals in a summary of the report here, as well as the full report here. The General Assembly will likely still have priorities to address after it has exhausted federal funding in its session later this month. Lawmakers will return in September or October to work through the state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Please reference our previous alert tracking state and local orders and reopening guidance here. For more information, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe or Parker Poe Consulting contact.
This client alert was co-authored by Sam Moses.