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SC Virus Committee to Offer Ideas for $2.5B in Pandemic Aid

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Gov. Henry McMaster/Twitter
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is reconvening members of his coronavirus recovery committee to help the state figure out how best to spend the $2.5 billion in new federal pandemic aid allocated earlier this year.

Accelerate SC met Wednesday as a dozen members across the fields of business, education, tourism, health and politics began to envision how the money could reshape the state in the aftermath of the pandemic's most deadly and economically difficult months.

In addition to the $2.5 billion lawmakers have discretion over, schools, counties and other local governments will get $6.3 billion — a total of $8.9 billion for South Carolina out of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that became law in March.

McMaster said he wanted the committee to help steer the funds toward “things that will have a lasting impact, and not just a temporary expenditure."

“We can make transformative investments now to accelerate the prosperity of each and every South Carolinian,” the governor added.

The group last met to make recommendations to lawmakers on how to spend $1.9 billion the state received in an early round of federal help last year. The suggestions that emerged from the committee included putting $500 million in the state's unemployment insurance trust fund and reimbursing schools for making up lost learning time, getting students broadband access and other expenses.

The group got an overview Wednesday of how the funding was allocated to states and the rules tied to the money. The state can use the $2.5 billion on a number of eligible uses. These include bolstering the public health response to COVID-19, providing broadband infrastructure for rural and underserved populations, reopening key industries such as tourism and providing direct aid to small businesses.

Lawmakers could also put the money to use by funding water and sewer infrastructure projects such as replacing lead pipes or modernizing coastal water assets against natural disasters, addressing educational disparities or filling in for revenue losses in the state.

The legislature expects to come back in a special session later this year to make a spending plan for the money.