We stand on the precipice of losing two seasons of tourism and hospitality here in the Lowcountry because of the COVID-19 crisis. That is devastating. Many of my neighbors and friends have become unemployed or lost significant business. Small business owners are getting increasingly desperate while waiting for the federal PPP program to offer them some breathing room. Furloughed workers are overloading our state’s unemployment system and are depleting their bank accounts while waiting for help.
Meanwhile in Columbia, our legislature cannot get its act together to pass a continuing resolution to fund the state government at current levels past June 30th let alone address the instability caused by this pandemic.
I entered this race because I will build consensus in order to solve the real-life problems we all face. I think that is sorely needed right now.
I hate the term new normal, but we certainly are going to be contending with changed consumer behaviors even when public life reopens. Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms need a representative who has the back of both our small businesses and our workers. We must support those who are struggling and bring visitors back to our beautiful region.
Our list of needs will undoubtedly grow, but I believe the following should be put into motion as quickly as possible:
Penalty-free tax payment flexibility for businesses and individuals. Paying taxes should honestly be the last item on a person’s to-do list. Money should first be used for stabilizing our businesses and our households.
Requiring business interruption insurance to cover pandemics. I will sponsor legislation that requires insurance companies to cover pandemics in the future and, if possible, to retroactively cover those with existing policies.
Help for workers. Increase unemployment assistance for affected workers and reduce bottlenecks at the department that oversees it. We need all hands on deck to create stopgap assistance for the unemployed, whether it is financial, job placement, healthcare or skills training. We should create new partnerships with community colleges and other vocational programs to offer additional adult education options to all of our state’s residents.
Reboot tourism and ‘buy-local’ marketing with an increased budget. We also should offer additional tax incentives for film and television production companies who want to work here because they do the marketing for us and put locals to work.
Initiate a resilience review of state law and policy to ensure that state regulations do not hold businesses back from innovating to meet the new needs of consumers.
Despite the doom and gloom, I am encouraged by what I see. This crisis has brought friends, neighbors and communities together … even if we are physically apart. There is a tremendous outpouring of support in helping local businesses weather this storm. When we rebound, we need to be ready to shoot out of the gate, but we also need someone in Columbia to ensure that workers and small businesses, who have been asked to sacrifice so much, are not left behind.