Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat
Residents should get their REAL ID card, move ahead
The debate over personal identification most often centers on issues of voting and ID theft. But there is another important identification matter facing South Carolinians.
Residents wanting to fly commercially, enter a secure federal building or visit a military installation will have to have a new identification card - and until the coronavirus emergency, the deadline to get the new ID was a month away on Oct. 1.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced in March:
"Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current Oct. 1, 2020, deadline. I have determined that states require a 12-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is Oct. 1, 2021."
After that date, a South Carolina driver's license or identification card must have a gold star to show it is a REAL ID if the holder wants to do certain things.
The REAL ID will be needed if you do not have another federally approved identification (valid U.S. passport or military ID) to use for those purposes.
The REAL ID driver's license or identification card is optional.
You will not need a REAL ID driver's license or identification card to do any of the following:
- Apply for or receive federal benefits for which you're entitled (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.);
- Enter a federal facility that does not require an ID (i.e., a post office);
- Access a hospital or receive life-saving services; and
- Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations (serve on a federal jury, testify in federal court, etc.).
New South Carolina driver's licenses and identification cards, some of which are compliant with REAL ID, are now available for purchase through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The REAL ID costs $25. The new cards are valid for no more than eight years.
Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 as a result of the 9/11 Commission's recommendation to standardize government-issued identifications, like driver's licenses.
South Carolina lawmakers resisted at first but passed a law in 2018 approving the licenses because of concerns residents might not be able to fly.
So the coronavirus has provided another reprieve - albeit a brief one. And as much as the extension makes sense with SCDMV operating with limited ability to serve the normal volume of clients, the people of the state should come to grips with REAL ID, get one and move ahead.
Young people and parties amid the pandemic
It's ironic that the best scene in the boxing movie "Rocky Balboa" isn't in a boxing ring but on a darkened city street.
In the scene, Rocky - world-weary and beaten down from all of his setbacks yet still seeking some way to overcome them - chastises his unfocused son for having a passive sense of complacency about life and the real world.
"You're better than that!" an impassioned Rocky tells his son.
Given how the Columbia Fire Department was recently called upon to break up a grossly overcrowded pool party held by students in a local apartment complex - and how USC has been forced to suspend 15 students and six Greek Life organizations for violating safety rules designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 - maybe the time has come.
Perhaps the time has arrived to direct Rocky's heartfelt words toward the many young South Carolinians who remain far too complacent about the real-world threat of COVID-19.
Come on now, y'all.
You're better than that.
DOING GREAT THINGS
So many of you are doing so many inspiring things.
So many of you are raising your voices for constructive and meaningful change - and, if necessary, going to the streets to demand it in peaceful fashion.
So many of you are performing difference-making work in our communities - from mentoring and volunteering for organizations to launching and creating your own initiatives.
So many of you are working hard in classrooms and tackling your academic duties with passion - a fact easy to observe just by traveling the streets of any college town in our state and seeing so many of you walk with determination and purpose from one campus building to another.
In short, so many of you are doing so much great stuff.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
But all that said, what is it?
What is it?
What is it about COVID-19 that makes so many of you become far too lax when it comes to viewing this virus as the serious public health issue it continues to be?
No, you may not be as susceptible to contracting and dying from COVID-19 as other individuals who are in higher-risk categories - such as the elderly and those with existing health challenges.
But, yes, actually, you can still get the virus.
It's still a respiratory-based illness that continues to elude a cure.
And, yes, you can still face major health challenges if you do contract COVID-19.
And, yes, it is still possible for you to die from COVID-19, as shown in a recent spike in coronavirus-related deaths among young Floridians.
So would you just take COVID-19 seriously, already?
And if you're allowing older people to convince you that COVID-19 isn't a big deal anymore, could you just stop listening to them?
DO IT FOR YOU
You're better than that, young South Carolinians.
We know you are.
But, really, this isn't about proving it to us or anyone else.
The time has come for you to prove it to yourselves.
The time has come for you to prove it for your own well-being.
The time has come for more of you to stop taking COVID-19 lightly - and to start taking your obligation to fight it with the heavy sense of responsibility it deserves.
We know you have what it takes to meet that challenge.
Now show it.
The Post and Courier
Supplemental wages for the unemployed
Gov. Henry McMaster made the right decision when he gave the green light for South Carolina to apply for supplemental federal unemployment funds, despite concerns about when the money will be available and whether it will benefit some of the people who need it most.
We are starting to see encouraging signs of an economic recovery here and across the nation, but it's a fragile recovery. Unemployment in South Carolina remained above 8% in July, with the leisure and hospitality sector particularly hard hit, losing more than 20% of its workforce. Indeed, the 58,900 jobs lost in this sector since July 2019 make up almost half of all the state's job losses.
Many of these losses have occurred in and around Charleston.
Unfortunately, the governor may have waited too late for the federal program to offer much-needed assistance. South Carolina is at the end of a long line of states that already have signed up - and at the bottom of another list of states that have applied but so far not been approved.
According to a recent report by Politico, 42 states had reached a decision to participate before South Carolina did. At least four states are already issuing the lost-wage payments, and 11 expect to issue them in September. And as Department of Employment and Workforce Director Dan Ellzey said in a letter to the governor, it will take DEW up to three weeks to make the changes necessary to administer the program once the federal government signs off.
While the $300 weekly checks will be retroactive to Aug. 1, they come from a FEMA disaster relief fund that contained only $55 billion before Hurricane Laura's arrival on Aug. 26.
Experts expect the fund will be exhausted by mid-October. All the more reason for Congress to resolve its differences over the next round of pandemic relief. Fortunately, the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that they are resuming talks.
The state's delay in applying, while prudent since so much was initially unclear about what our obligations might be, means those unemployed South Carolinians who qualify (many will not) are unlikely to get any help until October, if then. But better late than never, and better some than none.
We hope that by October, the whole Trump emergency plan, which was meant as a stopgap after Congress allowed the previous federal unemployment supplement to expire July 31, will have been overridden by new congressional action.
Meanwhile, construction employment in South Carolina has returned almost to the high level it had reached last year, and construction employment is a bellwether of economic growth. Although many pundits predict a double-dip recession, early third-quarter data from the New York and Atlanta Federal Reserve banks indicate strong growth is occurring, according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, head of the American Action Forum, a conservative economic think tank.
South Carolina's budget prognosticators note that a lot of our growth has been driven by the first round of federal stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, so how well it holds up still depends not just on COVID-19 infection rates, but also on when or whether Congress decides on the next pandemic relief program.
So while things are looking up, there still aren't enough jobs to go around, so unemployed workers - and through them our economy - can use all the help they can get.
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