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Columbia Business Monthly

Can We Continue Operating?

Apr 02, 2020 09:00AM ● By David Dykes

By Dustin Waters

With the number of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina surpassing 1,000, Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered all nonessential businesses to close under the current state of emergency. 

During a press conference announcing the order, the governor said selection of businesses deemed “nonessential” was conducted with the goal of having the largest impact on the spread of the coronavirus, while minimizing economic disruption.

“These businesses and activities that we have focused on here are those that have high contact, sometimes in very close quarters, but are not as essential as other businesses to keep the economy going,” said McMaster, adding that he is hopeful that federal assistance will mitigate hardships faced by these businesses.

“If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor's executive order, the business should continue normal operations until a determination is made,” McMaster tweeted alongside his announcement of the statewide closures. 

For those uncertain as to what businesses are affected, the governor’s order lists three categories of operations deemed inessential and closed to non-employees beginning April 1 at 5 p.m.

Businesses in the first group ordered to shutter included entertainment venues and facilities.Those include night clubs and venues operated by social clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters and performance centers, all tourist attractions, racetracks, strip clubs, bingo halls, as well as indoor play areas not belonging to licensed childcare facilities.

Despite closing schools, McMaster clarified that he currently has no intentions of ordering the closure of daycare or childcare facilities.

In addition to the cancellation of all spectator sports and any sport that involves participants interacting within six feet of one another or sharing equipment, recreational and athletic facilities are outlined in the second category in the governor’s order. This category specifically includes gyms, group exercise facilities, spas, and public or commercial pools. 

Close-contact service providers make up the third category of businesses ordered to close to the public. As named by the governor, those include barber shops, beauty and tanning salons, piercing and tattoo parlors, and massage services. 

The official order urges that businesses allowed to remain open promote social distancing to the “maximum extent possible” and encourages companies to allow employees to work from home and provide alternate means of purchasing and delivery. 

Those looking for further clarification regarding whether they are affected under the order must submit a business designation form to the S.C. Department of Commerce, which is available online

Those businesses or activities will be evaluated to determine if their continued operations are “in the best interest of the state,” and a final designation from the commerce department’s COVID-19 response team will be returned within 24 hours.

The order to close all nonessential business in South Carolina comes at a time when many owners and employees are struggling. 

Some Upstate law firms report they are getting fewer new clients because they aren’t coming in for consultations. Mortgage officers are working from home, answering questions, taking applications and closing loans.

Bookings at some travel companies are described as “completely dead.”  

Car washes, however, can remain open, according to Commerce Department officials.

Gregg White, South Carolina district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, recommends that owners cut expenses and utilize loan programs designed to help small businesses outlast the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Survive through this because when the economy does turn around, you want to be able to start back up and be able to hire people back. If you don’t have that ability, if you let your business fail through this and close down, you’re not going to do yourself or anybody else any good,” says White. “You really want to be able to open your business back up, keep your employees in place, let the economy kick back in. If you need to survive by getting an Economic Injury Disaster Loan or a Payroll Protection Plan loan with forgiveness for the payroll portion of it, do it so you can survive and you can help your employees survive.”

There could be a silver lining, according to Jennifer Sutton, founder and CEO of BRIGHT+CO, a Greenville-based marketing agency.

The  crisis will give employers an opportunity to rethink their policies on telecommuting, the need for face-to-face meetings, and offering greater flexibility, she says.

“The silver lining in this is that most companies will end up with a better sense of their needs through challenging preconceived notions and will come out the other side stronger, more informed, and better prepared to deal with future crises.”




 


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