Rose, Colleagues in House approve Emergency COVID-19 funds in special session

  • Mar 20, 2020
  • Arts & Culture, Business, Health & Science, Local News, Politics, Technology
  • Team Seth Rose

On March 19, Governor McMaster signed an emergency funding bill to help the state of South Carolina fights against the Coronavirus.

The measure passed the House by a unanimous vote of 121-0, after the state Senate approved the legislation earlier in the week. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, and Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, ratified the bill minutes after it passed the House.

The bill allocates $45 million to the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control, with funds that came from the state's contingency reserve fund. That fund had roughly $349 million that could be allocated.

House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said this is first step in fighting the crisis.

"Right now, we want to make sure the transmission rate does not get any worse and we stop if going from person-to-person, and people are safe and healthy," Rutherford said.

DHEC said some of that $45 million will allow the agency to hire more people, buy more protective equipment, pay for staff support, finance an education campaign, cover the costs of quarantine and transportation and any other unexpected expenses related to fighting the coronavirus.

"There's going to have to be more money we'd have to put towards this crisis," Lucas said. Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, who is also the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, told members money would not be a problem. "There will be no expense spared to protect the lives and safety of the citizens of South Carolina," Smith said.

After approving the funding bill, the House voted to adjourn on Thursday until they are called back to Columbia by Speaker Lucas, who said, in two weeks, he will assess the situation, but he is concerned with the safety of House members in the chambers. Many House members sat in the balcony Thursday to practice social distancing.

Lawmakers said they will continue to work together as this pandemic impacts small businesses and families across the state.

“We are all on aboard to assist. We know there are problems and people are hurting. I know the legislature will step in and act,” Rep. Seth Rose (D-Richland) said.

To see coverage from WBTV-TV 3 CBS (Charlotte, NC), please click here