1. South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Announces 2020 Public Servant of the Year and 2020 Business Leader of the Year Awards
On Monday, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce announced U.S. Senator for South Carolina, Tim Scott, and President and Owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Lou Kennedy, as the 2020 honorees for the Public Servant of the Year and the Business Leader of the Year, respectively.
The SC Chamber’s Public Servant of the Year award recognizes an individual who has served or currently serves as a key official in federal or state government and has contributed to the overall well-being and health of the state as a whole. The South Carolina Chamber’s Business Leader of the Year is chosen based on leadership in South Carolina and the embodiment of personal success. Other criteria include a business record based on ethical conduct and corporate responsibility, public service, and commitment to creating a positive business climate to improve the state’s economy.
Click here to read more about our 2020 honorees. Senator Scott and Lou Kennedy will be recognized and honored at the Chamber’s 41st Annual Summit later this year. For Annual Summit updates, click here.
2. September Unemployment Rate Down, In-demand Jobs Up
This week the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) released their September 2020 employment report which shows a decline in the unemployment rate from 6.4% in August to 5.1% in September. While this number remains higher than unemployment numbers in September 2019
(3.5%), it represents a positive trend.
- Employment: the seasonally adjusted, monthly survey of households estimated the number of South Carolinians working increased to 2,268,821. That is an increase of 2,571 people over August 2020.
- Unemployment: estimates declined significantly to 121,485 people, down from 154,809 in August.
- Nationally, the unemployment rate declined from 8.4% in August to 7.9% in September.
Director of DEW, Dan Ellzey, said, “… what our agency is hearing from the business community is the urgent need for workers. While we know a lot of businesses suffered layoffs during the pandemic, industries have ramped back up and several are experiencing a boom. People who are looking for employment are finding work. And now is the time to secure one of these in-demand jobs because South Carolina needs people in the workforce."
3. SC Broadband Updates
This week, the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) Broadband Oversight Subcommittee met to hear from the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), SC ETV, and the Department of Commerce about their progress and plans to improve broadband access and adoption throughout the state.
- Of the $50 million total CARES Act funds allocated for broadband, approximately $9.8 million remains uncommitted at this time. ORS is working with the grants manager to see what they may be able to use some of those funds for, but given that all funds must be expended by the end of the calendar year, ORS does not anticipate being able to spend all funds.
- Mapping: All of the providers except seven have agreed to upload their data. The last day for them to upload their data is October 27, 2020. CostQuest is still on track to finalize street-level mapping of the state and overlaying the provider data by the end of November.
SC ETV Update:
- The project is still a pilot in the following districts: Fairfield, York 1, Jasper, and Dillon 4. The goal in this Phase 1 pilot is to serve 600 students. The goal for Phase 2 is to work with 3,000 – 5,000 students in 34 targeted districts before the end of the school year.
- The agency has also drilled down on the 2% of individuals not covered by SC ETV’s signal. That 2% equates to approximately 82,373 individuals including 10,000 students enrolled in 27 public school districts. These are primarily located in Chesterfield, Edgefield, and McCormick counties.
- The agency is currently investigating options to work with providers on possibilities for “return casting” which would allow students to send information back to their school/instructor via their SC ETV signal.
New Dept. of Commerce Plan:
- FY 2019-20 Budget Proviso 50.21 allocated $65 million to the Department of Commerce (Commerce) for the “Rural School District and Economic Development Closing Fund.” To date, those funds have not been used or designated for a specific purpose.
- Commerce is now proposing that the state use a portion of those funds to create a grant program for providers to complete projects in underserved areas. Using the CostQuest maps once complete in November/December, Commerce would overlay additional data to show areas where broadband service could make the most impact.
- The proviso would allow a reach of up to 39 counties.
- Grant applications will be scored using a predetermined, weighted scoring system. Elements that may be included in the scoring include time to complete the project, community support, adoption strategies, tiered rates, and program for low-to-moderate-income subscribers, etc.
- There will be a required funding match from the grant recipient, but it is to be determined what that percentage will be.
- Ultimately, this proposal will need to be approved by the full JBRC. Commerce is hoping to have approval and roll this program out in January 2021.
These and other resources for businesses are available on our website. As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any further information as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out to us at COVID19Response@scchamber.net with questions.