Back to work for the General Assembly –
The General Assembly will be returning to Columbia this week to address appropriations associated with South Carolina’s share of funding from the federal CARES Act. The continuing resolution that will allow the state government to operate past June 30 (end of the fiscal year) clarified that while the CARES Act directed the monies, amounting to about $1 billion, to the governor, in South Carolina the authority to appropriate funds rests with the General Assembly.
COVID-19 liability legislation –
SCICU has been working closely with the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and other statewide organizations in support of legislation to create incentives for businesses and schools to meet agreed-upon standards for COVID-19 precautions. If those standards are met, the business or school could not be held liable for a COVID-19 infection.
The following testimony was submitted by Converse College President and Chair of the SCICU Council of Presidents Krista Newkirk in support of liability legislation:
In March, because the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff has been and will always remain our highest priority, the 20 member institutions of South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities confronted the COVID-19 challenge and moved to an online academic program for the rest of the spring semester. We are proud to have been able to provide for our students’ academic needs while reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Nevertheless, our students had to forego many of the campus experiences that make attending our institutions such a powerful preparation for rewarding lives of leadership.
Our students have let us all know that although they appreciate the work it took for our faculty to switch all classes to an online format, they very much want to return to campus this fall, and the communities in which our campuses are located are also very eager for our campuses to be vibrant again.
We have been slowly and carefully bringing our employees back to campus, while maintaining safeguards and practices designed to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 infection. In August, we will do the same for our students. We are doing our best to follow constantly changing guidance to keep our campuses safe for our students, faculty, staff, and guests.
The General Assembly can greatly assist us by identifying through liability protection legislation what is a reasonable level of preparation. Specifically, we ask that you pass legislation that is temporary and targeted to give immunity to employers, including private colleges and universities, from lawsuits that are related to COVID-19 claims so long as we have followed official public health guidance. Again, we seek temporary immunity from when the pandemic started – during the most uncertain times – and last through the end of the pandemic or December 31, 2021, whichever is later.
Such legislation will encourage campuses and businesses to meet the standards and responsibilities upon which we agree. We are not asking bad actors to be protected if they take no steps to protect their workplaces.
As we move forward toward the fall semester we ask not to be disrupted by unwarranted litigation that will disadvantage not only our campuses but also the students we serve. We humbly request legislators support our efforts to tackle the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 by taking immediate action to pass temporary liability protection legislation that acknowledges these extraordinary circumstances.