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Federal COVID relief funding: Where the money is going

South Carolina has received over $10 billion in federal aid during the pandemic. While most of it has been allocated, $2.5 billion is still up for grabs.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina has received over $10 billion in federal aid to help recover from the pandemic. 

When the pandemic forced people to lose jobs and kids to stay home for school, the federal funding aimed to help communities get through tough times.

First, South Carolina got $1.9 billion from the CARES Act. Governor McMaster created a public, private partnership called AccelerateSC to help decide how the funds should be spent.

Chair of AccelerateSC, James Burns, said “with the CARES Act funding, where we identified issues were things like broadband." He added that, "trying to understand the access to broadband was something that this group did.”

Burns said CARES Act funding largely went to broadband mapping and expansion projects, hot spot devices for kids, stockpiling PPE and COVID testing.

He asserted that the largest amount of money was likely the $500 million that they recommended for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

AccelerateSC made recommendations to the Governor on how to spend the CARES Act funds and Burns said they were mostly approved by the General Assembly. 

RELATED: Kershaw County could receive more than $10M for infrastructure

Projects funded by CARES Act money, like broadband expansion, were required to be up and running by the end of December 2020. 

Now, almost a year after that deadline, South Carolina is still deep in the pandemic. More aid has come to the state via the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), totaling to $9 billion.

Burns explained that the ARPA funds are, in part, meant to be spent on COVID-related issues, infrastructure, and to make up for a loss of revenue due to the pandemic. 

The majority of ARPA funds, according to Burns, are going directly to municipalities, K-12 schools, higher education and public health. 

However, $2.5 billion of the funds still need to be allocated. AccelerateSC has made recommendations for how to spend this money, which the General Assembly will decide on in January. 

Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Murrell Smith, said he wants to use the money to ensure South Carolina is "prepared financially to handle COVID and bring us out of pandemic." 

RELATED: State agency selects rural infrastructure projects for funding assistance

Then, Smith said, he thinks they should use the rest of the money for long-term investments, like AccelerateSC and the Governor are recommending.

“Let’s make sure that we address the needs for COVID first, then we can make these monumental investments for the state,” said Smith.

Those "monumental investments" may include more broadband expansion, water and sewage upgrades in rural areas, and improving infrastructure like South Carolina's highways and ports.

The American Rescue Plan funds, according to Smith, have to be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. 

Smith said it's likely the General Assembly will begin discussions in January. 

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