COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - By a vote of 109 to 2, South Carolina House members signed off on the allocation plan for a bulk of the CARES Act money the state is receiving from the federal government for COVID-19 response.
Some of the money will be used to expand broadband access in the state, testing and monitoring for COVID-19, and to help cover the costs of summer learning camps and additional days at the start of the school year.
House members began their day with a moment of silence and thoughtful prayer in memory of George Floyd.
After that, they took up the allocation plan the Senate worked on Tuesday. The plan uses about $1.3 billion from the CARES Act. According to lawmakers there is about $600 million left over that will be reserved for any other COVID-19 responses between now and December.
Rep. Chris Wooten (R-Lexington) said, “The only problem I have with it is the more money the federal government gives us - more ties South Carolina has to the federal government but we need the money.”
A full breakdown of the allocation:
(A) Department of Employment and Workforce Unemployment Trust Fund: $500,000,000
(B) State Department of Education Academic Recovery Camps, Five Days of Academic Instruction and Food Service: $222,700,000
(C) Department of Administration State and Local Government Expenditures: $270,000,000
(D) Department of Health and Environmental Control Statewide Testing and Monitoring: $42,437,873
(E) Adjutant General - Emergency Management Division Personal Protective Equipment Stockpile and Supply Chain: $16,804,115
(F) Department of Administration - Executive Budget Office -- Hospital Relief Fund: $125,000,000
(G) Office of Regulatory Staff - Broadband Mapping and Planning, Infrastructure and Mobile Hotspots: $50,000,000
(H) Department of Administration - Executive Budget Office- Grant Management Oversight and Compliance: $10,000,000
House Democrats proposed a handful of amendments to the allocation plan Wednesday. Rep. Wendy Brawley (D-Richland) wanted to double the amount being used for broadband.
Rep. Brawley said, "accelerateSC had recommended $100 million be set aside for broadband. The Senate reduced that to half of the amount. I don't understand because we have the money to support it."
Her amendment was voted down by House members. House Republicans said they would revisit the issue in September. They said the money for the extra mobile hotspots on school buses will help but is not a permanent solution.
Rep. Brawley said, "It's unfortunate because September is a month after school starts. It's two months after the summer camps are scheduled to take place. We should have done our job today."
Rep. Wooten said the COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the digital divide in South Carolina. He serves on the House Education Committee and said broadband access will remain a priority for lawmakers. "This is 2020 money. We have to make sure that there is money in 2021 and 2022 so it continues and we just don't mandate it and can actually fix it."
House Democrats also proposed amendments to expand absentee voting for the November elections. Those measures were voted down and lawmakers said this could be addressed when they return in September.
The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.