These are unprecedented and uncertain times. They will undoubtedly call for unprecedented solutions. One thing you can be certain of is our commitment to serving your needs through the COVID-19 crisis. We are taking precautions to protect our employees, clients, and vendors. To minimize the opportunity for spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are not currently scheduling in-person meetings. However, you may contact us by phone or email at any time, and we can conduct remote meetings through conferencing technology. Even in the event of a general shutdown, we have contingency plans in place to continue to assist your needs.
We are also committed to providing you with timely and accurate information about the current COVID-19 outbreak that may affect your South Carolina business. Below is a collection of relevant resources for employers in our state. The situation changes frequently, so please check back often.
Guidance for South Carolina Employers
Executive Orders from the Governor’s Office
On March 11, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 2020-07, lifting certain transportation regulations in response to COVID-19. Two days later, on March 13, 2020, the Governor issued E.O. 2020-08, declaring a state of emergency. Since then, a series of orders have been issued to respond to the outbreak, including an order closing all public schools and universities in the state, and ordering non-essential state employees not to report to workplaces.
On March 23, 2020, the Governor issued an executive order authorizing and directing law enforcement to disburse public gatherings of 3 or more people.
On March 24, 2020, the Governor’s Office and the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools issued a press release telling South Carolinians to plan on schools being closed through April.
All persons entering the state from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as the City of New Orleans, are ordered to quarantine or isolate for 14 days, or the duration of their stay in South Carolina, whichever is shorter. The order is effective March 27, 2020, and remains in effect until the rescinded or the state of emergency ends.
The Governor on March 28, 2020, issued an executive order extending the current state of emergency, ordering the schools closed through the month of April, and providing that any local ordinances to the contrary are superseded to the extent they conflict. The order is in place through April 12, 2020, unless extended, modified, or rescinded.
Executive Order 2020-17, issued March 31, 2020, closed certain non-essential business in South Carolina. Among the categories of businesses ordered to close are: entertainment venues and facilities, recreational and athletic facilities and activities, and close-contact service providers. The order includes a list of businesses under each category. Businesses can seek a determination from the S.C. Department of Commerce at www.sccommerce.com, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone (803) 734-2873. The Department is directed to review requests and provide a response within 24 hours. Businesses seeking clarification are directed to remain open pending receipt of a determination from the Commerce Department. The executive order is effective April 1, 2020, and remains in effect for the duration of the state of emergency unless rescinded or amended by subsequent order.
You may access all of the Governor’s executive orders by clicking this link.
The City of Charleston issued a stay at home ordinance effective 12:01 a.m., Thursday, March 26, 2020, and currently set to expire on April 7, 2020.
The City of Columbia issued a “Stay Home Stay Safe” ordinance effective 12:01 a.m., Sunday, March 29, 2020. The ordinance currently expires April 9, 2020.
Greenville City Council is taking up a proposed stay at home ordinance on March 31, 2020, that would go into effect on April 2, 2020, and would remain in effect for 15 days from enactment. Update: Council postponed the vote pending review of the Governor’s Executive Order closing certain non-essential business.
All three ordinances require businesses deemed non-essential to close and prohibit travel within the cities for any purpose other than doing essential business. The ordinances include a list of essential services that are allowed to continue operating. Charleston businesses that are not considered essential may fill out an application for review by a committee, which will make recommendations to the mayor. Columbia has not yet set out a process for businesses to petition for inclusion.
Public Health Information for Employers
The Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible for, among other things, public health activities in the state. You may access information from SCDHEC on COVID-19 here. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have issued guidance for employers, as well as providing other information about the COVID-19 outbreak.
What is the difference between quarantine and isolation? And what do they mean? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that quarantine is the restriction of movement of a well person who may have been exposed to communicable disease. Isolation is the separation of sick people from people who are not sick.
The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce has created an information hub for COVID-19 with general information, and an employer resources hub specific to employers. You may find information about the extension to file employer taxes, how to file claims on behalf of employees on layoff, and updated questions and answers about unemployment and COVID-19.
Regulatory Information for Employers
Deparment of Labor
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has issued Temporary Rules to administer emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA.
DOL has issued a poster for employers subject to the emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA laws. DOL issued companion Frequently Asked Questions for posting the notice, including guidance that employers who have workers tele-working may comply by e-mailing or posting to a company intranet site, in addition to posting in conspicuous places at the work site.
DOL has also issued Questions and Answers on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA coverage for certain COVID-19 related absences. Included is an explanation of how to count employees for purposes of the less-than-500 threshold, as well as how to determine hours and pay for part-time and variable hour employees. The same Q&A indicates that employees out of work because the employer is shutdown due to government order does not count as a reason for leave under the new law. (See Q&A 23, 24, 25.) Important: These Q&As change frequently, and employers are advised to check them often.
In addition, DOL has issued an explanation of employer expanded family and medical leave requirements, along with a Field Assistance Bulletin indicating it does not plan to take enforcement action against any employers through April 17. In addition, the FAB provides guidance for employers eligible for a tax credit under the law but with insufficient cash flow to meet the paid leave requirements (see footnote 2 of the FAB).
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated its guidance on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act during pandemics.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued information and guidance to employers in response to COVID-19.
The IRS has assembled information in response to COVID-19, including tax filing deadline extensions and tax relief provided to certain employers under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The IRS has also issued FAQs for employers on how to claim the tax credit provided under the FFCRA for emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA payments made to eligible employees. Importantly, the FAQs provide guidance on the information employers need to collect and maintain to substantiate that the leave qualifies under the law. See FAQs 44-46.
In addition to the tax credit for leave provided under FFCRA, there is an Employee Retention Tax Credit available to certain businesses suffering a business downturn due to COVID-19. Under the program, businesses whose operations were partially or fully suspended by government order due to COVID-19, or that have gross receipts below 50% of the comparable 2019 calendar quarter may be eligible for a credit of 50% of qualifying wages, up to $10,000.
The IRS has issued a Form 7200 for employers seeking advance payment for tax credits under the FFCRA or the Employee Retention Tax Credit.