Business news: Smith for small business relief in U.S. economic rescue package for coronavirus


A small business relief package is a critical component in a new stimulus package being debated this week in Washington, according to a state lawmaker from Sumter.

State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, who also serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke on the importance of protecting affected employees and small businesses with the new federal legislation.

Smith said the coronavirus pandemic has already fundamentally changed the economic landscape of South Carolina and very much hurt the final quarter of this fiscal year that ends June 30.

He noted the restaurant industry in South Carolina, for example, has been impacted greatly since the state declaration last week to stop dine-in services.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Smith said he was hoping for a federal small business relief package that would include loans to small businesses that then could be directly used to pay and retain their employees on staff.

The best alternative, in Smith's opinion, in small business relief legislation would be if companies kept their employees on payroll through an extended date, the loan would be forgiven.

"That's all up for discussion right now in Washington," Smith said.

At the state level, Smith said, the General Assembly will do whatever it can to combat the crisis, but more financial assistance from Washington is necessary.

Any stimulus package approved would represent the third recovery package Congress has moved on this month.

With general hopes that the pandemic passes sometime this spring and the economy stabilizes, Smith said legislators would still have time to accurately assess the situation and pass the state budget. That deadline is not until June 30, he said.

Smith noted that the General Assembly's decision last week to give $45 million to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control was "a first step of a long journey that the state will have to engage in to make sure our employees and businesses are taken care of through this crisis."