In the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s preliminary assessment of damage throughout the state caused by Hurricane Florence, it estimates that 55 homes were destroyed and more than 1,500 homes were damaged, with 704 home assessed as receiving major damage. While those numbers will adjust as flood zones become reachable, flooding is still expected in parts of the Pee Dee region such as Socastee. The SCEMD, FEMA and other agencies remain in the area to provide disaster assistance.
South Carolina’s workforce-participation rate is the nation’s fourth-lowest, and the percentage of state workers looking for jobs fell all six months from April to August. As Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and Democratic state Rep. James Smith campaign for November, each has been promoting his ideas for how to boost worker training, how to help rural areas and how to adjust taxes in a state that suddenly has far more job openings than job seekers.
Among South Carolina’s 135 places designated as an Opportunity Zone – the program that bestows Federal tax breaks on profits from investing in “severely distressed” areas – is a census track on the Charleston peninsula that runs along the area of King and Meeting streets and includes Marion Square that is home to high-end hotels, apartments, fine dining and entertainment in one of the world’s top tourist destinations. “I can’t figure out how that got in,” one commercial real estate broker said. But because more than half that zone’s residents are 18-24 thanks to the presence of the College of Charleston, the household income statistics meet the threshold in Opportunity Zone rules. The Opportunity Zone program originated in the TCJA thanks to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston native, with long-term incentives to lure developers into improving low-income areas in an approval process that flows from local governments up to state governors before an OK from the Federal government. When taxable gains from stock and property sales are invested into an Opportunity Zone, it minimizes and postpones Federal taxes, and if the stake is held for 10 years the taxes on capital gains are eliminated.
Online retailer Amazon announced it will raise its minimum wage for workers to $15 per hour and will lobby to raise the Federal standard of $7.25 per hour, which has been in place since 2009. The Amazon fulfilment center in West Columbia employs 1,500 workers, and this news comes at the start of its seasonal hiring boost for the December holidays. In a state where unemployment is well under 4%, the raise is expected to draw more interest in a tight job market, and USC economist Robert Hartwig said Amazon’s move will “help to increase local economic activity, as workers are feeling more confident in their own economic situation.” South Carolina is among states at the bottom of minimum wage pay, since it ties its minimum wage to the Federal mandate.