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  • Sen. Mia McLeod

COVID19 URGENT Message to Governor McMaster & President Peeler

March 16, 2020

Governor McMaster and President Peeler, Now that all SC schools are closed and procedures are in place to provide meals to our students who need them, many parents/guardians will have childcare and Paid Leave challenges, since government offices remain open.  Here are a few ways we can expedite the closure of state government offices and address Paid Leave concerns for Non-Essential State Employees:  1. Relax any constraints on the use of sick and annual leave and authorize the use of agency Leave Pools for those who may not have adequate sick or annual leave, to ensure income is not interrupted during this period. 2. Open up eligibility criteria for Leave Pools of each government agency so that each Pool is covered by the SC Emergency Declaration; remove previous Policy constraints and prohibitions (if applicable) regarding the sharing of Leave Pool contributions. This option presents NO FISCAL IMPACT to SC. 3. Utilize funds from last year’s almost $2 billion budget surplus, as well as State & Federal Emergency Funds, to help cover the cost. As of March 14, NCSL has reported that eleven legislatures (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) have postponed or suspended their legislative session. Two additional chambers, Missouri Senate and Ohio House, have also postponed their legislative session. North Carolina isn’t currently in session, but legislative committee meetings are postponed until April 1st. Our neighbors in Georgia have suspended their legislative session indefinitely. Suspending non-essential government operations, including the legislative session, and temporarily closing public access to the State House and non-essential government offices could significantly help prevent the spread of COVID19. After learning last night that a dear friend and former colleague, who lobbies at the State House—and was there last week—has been diagnosed and hospitalized with the Coronavirus, it is painfully obvious that we can’t continue to wait.    Every day that we do, we’re putting our colleagues, friends, loved ones and ourselves in harm’s way.  As we lift our friend and others who’ve already been impacted in prayer, James 2:17 reminds us that “...Faith without works is dead.” Let’s exercise our faith and do the responsible thing. Time is of the essence. Reconvening on Tuesday and reassessing on a weekly basis is not our safest or most sensible option.  We’ve just learned of the state’s first coronavirus-related death, right here in Lexington. My doctor has advised me to not risk possible exposure by returning to the State House. I’m sure those orders would apply to many of you who are equally vulnerable. I beg you to take action now, by working with House Speaker Lucas to suspend the legislative session for both chambers, as well as non-essential government operations, until it’s safe for legislators and state employees to return. Our ability to lead in a decisive and responsible way will help to prevent panic and community spread, while protecting and preparing our constituents for this unprecedented, global pandemic. I pray that we will rise to the challenge.  The clock is ticking, and the people of South Carolina are counting on us... All the best, Mia

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