Panel of SC lawmakers looking into relief for small businesses meets virtually for the first time

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT|Updated: May. 4, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Usually around this time of the year, Martha Studstill is preparing for a rush of orders for Mother's Day and graduations.

Studstill owns Uptown On Main in Downtown Columbia. Her store has been closed to customers since mid-March. She said her store is full of spring gifts and merchandise.

"We had a really good fourth quarter and a great start to 2020. I had ordered merchandise to prepare for that trend to continue," she said.

According to Studstill, they are missing out on one of the busiest times of the year for them but she didn't want to risk anyone's safety and well-being. "That decision has been agonizing. I was laying off employees that had been with me a long time. Not knowing how long this would be," Studstill said.

She said she is still working on figuring out the safest way to open up her doors to customers and her employees. In the meantime they will continue to work on online orders they are getting from customers.

Monday afternoon, a panel of lawmakers responsible for finding ways for the General Assembly to help business owners like Studstill met virtually for the first time.

The newly formed COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee held a virtual meeting. Their goal is to look into the effects and disruptions caused by COVID-19 on the state’s small businesses and through a review of existing regulations, identify ways to provide relief to these businesses.

According to a survey of small business owners done by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, business owners said the biggest challenges they are facing right now is the ability to cover payroll and dealing with low customer demand.

Lawmakers said making things safe at these small businesses will increase customer confidence. Representative Seth Rose (D-Richland) is on the committee. He suggested working with associations to come up with best practices for these businesses as more and more re-open.

He said, "I know one-size won't fit all for all small businesses but maybe we can categorize them and issue guidelines on the best way to re-open in a safe manner."

Other lawmakers during the meeting suggested ramping up testing for these businesses and the community to help improve customer confidence.

Studstill said the best ‘relief’ for small businesses in South Carolina are the customers. “It thinks it’s going to be imperative that people intentionally focus on supporting small businesses once this is all over,” she said.

The COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee will be meeting again next Monday. They are asking small businesses owners from across the state to send them some input. You can do that by clicking here.

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