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What You Missed: Governor asks lawmakers not to craft new budget amid COVID-19 uncertainty | Free Times

Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham field questions about President Donald Trump’s plan to have South Carolina’s state government cover an extra $100 in unemployment benefits to eligible applicants. Staff/Jamie Lovegrove

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is asking state lawmakers not to craft a new state budget when they return to Columbia soon, but instead keep government running at last year’s spending levels, citing continuing fiscal uncertainty because of the novel coronavirus. As reported by The Post and Courier’s Seanna Adcox, McMaster made his feelings known during an Aug. 20 cabinet meeting. The governor noted, among other things, that an expected $1.8 billion surplus that was slated for the next year “evaporated almost overnight” during the pandemic slowdown. Lawmakers are expected to return in September to consider a new budget. But the governor wants them to hold off. “I believe the responsible thing for the General Assembly to do next month is keep the state budget operating under a continuing resolution” and hold off on spending any additional money that comes in until next year, Adcox reported. However, state Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, who says this has been “by far the most unusual” budget year in the two decades he’s been the state’s lead budget writer, says he intends to move forward with a new budget. “When we return to Columbia, we will begin work on a budget where 20% of the fiscal year is history,” he wrote in a letter to committee members.

SC’s unemployment rate remained above 8.5% in July

In a sign that the state’s economy is still struggling during COVID-19, South Carolina’s unemployment rate remained above 8.5 percent in July. According to Andrew Brown at The Post and Courier, there were 212,000 South Carolinians who were seeking employment last month but unable to find work. The state added 16,000 jobs between June and July, but that represented a significant slowdown compared to the previous two months, when 150,000 jobs were added back into SC’s economy. The unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 percent in June to 8.6 percent in July. Still, state officials remain optimistic. “With a decreased unemployment rate, it’s no surprise that July’s release shows a promising trend of people rejoining the workforce,” state Department of Employment and Workforce director Dan Ellzey said in a prepared statement. “If we compare the number of employed South Carolinians in April, it shows that 152,943 South Carolinians have rejoined the workforce.” Ellzey also notes that South Carolina’s unemployment rate was better than the national unemployment rate of 10.2 percent.

Protesters push SLED for answers on Elijah Weatherspoon’s death

A group of protesters gathered outside of SLED’s Columbia offices on Aug. 21 to continue seeking answers about the death of Elijah Weatherspoon, a teenager who drowned in the Cooper River in Charleston in June. Scant details have been released about his drowning. He had been one of eight people on a boat in the river before his death. “I just imagine my mom two months later having absolutely no idea what happened to her son,” says Elijah Whiteside, a 17-year-old protester who studies at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, according to The Post and Courier’s Adam Benson. “This is about justice for all, because there are other instances, especially in South Carolina, that are just like Elijah’s case, with no closure.” A SLED spokesperson said that the case remains open as officials “conduct an independent, unbiased, thorough and complete investigation.”

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