Ruta Smith file photo

As thousands of South Carolinians face the possibility of economic hardship or losing their jobs as efforts are made to minimize spread of the coronavirus, five South Carolina politicians cast symbolic votes against $100 billion relief legislation to help ease the pain.

The Senate passed emergency relief legislation 90-8 on Wednesday, with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott casting one of the votes against it days after four GOP House members cast votes against relief measures that passed with huge bipartisan support.

Congressmen Jeff Duncan, Ralph Norman, William Timmons, and Joe Wilson, along with 36 of their House Republican colleagues, voted against the emergency legislation on March 14. U.S. Reps. Jim Clyburn, Joe Cunningham, and Tom Rice, a Republican, supported the measure in the Democratic-led House.
The Senate bill, now headed for the president’s desk, is already the second attempt by Congress, with a third likely on the way, to help the American economy as it braces for a slowdown brought on by public health orders to stop loss of life due to the coronavirus.

In South Carolina, 60 cases of the contagious virus and the resulting respiratory disease COVID-19 have been confirmed, according to the Department of Health And Environmental Control. School has been called off for at least two weeks, public officials have closed bar and restaurant dining rooms, and urged people to work from home if possible. Nationwide, more than 7,000 cases have been confirmed, with 97 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The bill provides for free coronavirus testing, emergency paid sick leave, emergency paid family leave, expanded unemployment insurance, and expanded food assistance programs. (Benefits and programs vary based on eligibility.)  [embed-1]
Scott said that the package passed Wednesday, “while well-intentioned, could have disastrous effects for South Carolina’s small businesses and their employees.” In a statement, Scott said his focus is now on a third relief package, the details of which will likely hinge on whether economic stimulus goes directly to Americans or through their employers.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham had criticisms of the measures on Tuesday, but voted for the bill on Wednesday, “as imperfect as it is.” Realizing the political reality of a divided Congress, Graham urged swift passage of the bill, which Democrats passed in the House on Saturday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually supported the proposal, but did not take up the bill until Wednesday.

“Every day that we wait slows down the recovery,” Graham said on Tuesday.


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