Latest News

Current Situation in the United States

Your health and well-being are what matter most.


On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the rapidly spreading Novel Coronavirus a/k/a COVID-19, a pandemic. With a growing number of infections on almost every continent, the World Health Organization announced the outbreak has reached the “highest level” of risk for the world.

As we keep a close watch on emerging cases and affected regions, we’re committed to keeping you posted on what we’re doing.

We’re here for you. If you’ve been affected by COVID-19, reach out to see how we can support you. We may be able to provide some answers to legal questions that can help. Call us at 843-839-3210 to learn more.

Important COVID-19 Dates

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April 28th

City of Myrtle Beach Reopens Beach Access Effective Immediately.

April 22nd

Gov. McMaster has announced that schools across S.C. will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

April 16th

Gov. McMaster has reopened the public boat ramps and landings to allow outdoor exercise and recreation effective April 17th, 2020.

April 13th

Gov. McMaster has renewed the state of emergency currently in place for the state, extending all previous orders for another 15 days.

April 6th

Gov. McMaster mandates that all South Carolinians must remain at home or work unless visiting family, exercising or obtaining essential goods or services, which include food shopping and medicine pick-up.

March 31st

Gov. McMaster issues an executive order to close non-essential, close-contract businesses and venues. If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor’s executive order, the business can continue normal operations until a determination on that business’s essential status is made.

March 30th

Gov. McMaster ordered any and all public beach access points, piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, and boat landings providing public access to the public waters shall be closed to public access for recreational purposes for the duration of the State of Emergency.

 

March 27th

President Trump signs into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides relief to taxpayers affected by COVID-19.

March 27th

Gov. McMaster requests all S.C. visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks if staying two or more nights.

March 27th

Gov. Roy Cooper, the governor or North Carolina, has issued a state-at-home order for the entire state of North Carolina starting at 5 p.m. on Monday March 30, 2020.

March 26th

Horry County Council, North Myrtle Beach City Council, Myrtle Beach City Council, Surfside City Counsel, and Georgetown City Counsel all passed ordinances prohibiting short term rentals, hotels, and condominiums, Airbnb, VRBO, and campgrounds to stop accepting reservations through April 30.

March 23rd

McMaster has also discouraged groups of 3+ people gathering together. This does not apply to households of 3+ people who live in the same home together.

March 18th

McMaster ordered all restaurants, bars and cafeterias statewide stop all dine-in activity until further notice as of March 18, 2020.

March 17th

The South Carolina Department of Education has closed all public schools in South Carolina beginning March 16, 2020 through April 30, 2020.

March 13th

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (Gov. McMaster) declared a state of emergency in South Carolina on March 13, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Outlined below, we have listed some common questions and answers regarding the ever-changing situation with respect to the law, businesses, employment, and the economy. We also have provided some additional resources.

South Carolina

What measures have been taken in the Myrtle Beach Area to slow the spread of Covid-19?

Update on Short Term Rentals

City of Myrtle Beach

  • The Myrtle Beach City Council approved an executive order that will allow for short-term rentals to resume operations with restrictions.
  • Between May 1 to May 15, short-term rentals have the ability to honor reservations that are presently on the books but cannot accept new reservations during that two week period.
  • New reservations can be taken after May 15.

Horry County

  • Horry County has announced that they will allow their existing ban on short-term rentals in the unincorporated parts of the County to expire on April 30.

City of North Myrtle Beach (Short and Long-term Rentals)

  • The existing ban on short-term rentals will expire on April 30 except for residents from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where the ban is extended until May 12.
  • The City’s Emergency Ordinance prohibiting long-term rentals only is effective through April 30, 2020.

Horry County Ordinance

  • Under the Horry County Ordinance, all short term rentals (less than 30 days) beginning on Saturday through April 30 are canceled. In addition to hotels, the prohibition applies to condominiums, Airbnb, VRBO, campgrounds, and any and all short-term rentals.
  • The only exceptions are (1) rentals currently in place by today (Friday) may stay until the end of their existing reservations but no additional occupants of the rental are permitted and the reservation may not be extended (2) rentals to critical personnel responding to COVID-19 (government, hospital, health agencies, law enforcement, military or other), and (3) rentals to anyone who has been in place since March 1. It is a criminal offense to violate the ordinance.

Myrtle Beach Ordinance

  • The Myrtle Beach Mayor extended the COVID-19 Emergency for another 30 days, extending the current order to May 1st.
  • This means-
    • All accommodations businesses in the City of Myrtle Beach, including hotels, condo hotels, rental properties, including private management companies, Airbnb, VRBO and public and private campgrounds:
      • Shall not accept new reservations or extend current reservations for any period prior to May 1st.
      • Existing reservations made for a period beginning March 28, 2020- May 1, 2020 will be rescheduled or canceled.
    • Exceptions to the above restrictions are as follows:
      • Those units which have been consistently occupied since March 1, 2020. No new occupants can join the current occupant including friends and family.
      • Travelling medical staff
      • First responders and other governmental employees- these employees must be engaged in their official capacity
      • Persons making delivery of food, medical supplies, medicines, gasoline, or other necessary supplies.
      • And a few other limited categories of displaced peoples.
  • All amusements and related services designed primarily to attract and accommodate visitors are hereby ordered to close effective Friday, March 27, 2020, including but not limited to:
    • Movie and live performance theaters;
    • Mini-golf courses;
    • Golf courses are prohibited from allowing non-local play;
    • Moped and golf cart rental operations;
    • Amusement parks and arcades and;
    • Jet ski rentals, beach umbrella and chair rentals; parasailing and banana boat rentals, and all other forms of commercial activity on the beach.
  • The ordinance also closes all visitor attractions including amusement parks and arcades. Violation of this ordinance is a criminal offense carrying a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

North Myrtle Beach Ordinance

  • Under the North Myrtle Beach Ordinance, ALL short term rentals (rentals of less than 30 days) beginning 7am on Friday, March 27 and extending through April 30 are prohibited.
  • In addition to hotels, the prohibition applies to condominiums, Airbnb, VRBO, campgrounds, and any and all short-term rentals.
    • The only exceptions are that renters currently in place may stay until the end of their existing reservations. Reservations may not be extended. And the prohibition does not apply to rentals to critical personnel responding to COVID-19 (government, hospital, health agencies, law enforcement, military or other). Violation of this ordinance is a criminal offence carrying a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

Georgetown County Ordinance

  • All accommodations businesses in Georgetown County, including hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, inclusive of private management companies and HOA’s, Airbnb, VRBO style lodging, public and private campgrounds and other overnight accommodations for 29 days or less, shall not accept new reservations for any period of time from March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020 (Such time limit is subject to further modification).
  • Existing reservations made beginning March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020 will be rescheduled or cancelled.
  • Visitors currently check in prior to March 28, 2020 may remain until the end of their existing reservations, but such reservations shall not be extended.
  • Exempt: Units consistently occupied by the same occupant since March 1, 2020 are exempt but rental occupancy in the same unit may not be increased by others, including friends or family.
    • Also exempted are short-term rentals extended to Government, Hospital, Health Agency, Law Enforcement, Military or other Critical Personnel actively responding to the COVID-19 emergency.

Surfside Beach Ordinance

  • Rental and use of Short-Term Rentals, including, but not limited to hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, inclusive of private management companies and HOA’s, Airbnb, VRBO style lodging, and other overnight accommodations for 29 days or less beginning March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020 are prohibited. Visitors currently checked in may remain until the end of their existing reservations.
    • Exempt: Short-term rentals extended to Government, hospital, Health Agency, Law Enforcement, Military and other Critical Personnel actively responding to COVID-19.

Pawleys Island Ordinance

  • Short-Term Rentals and Other Overnight Accommodations: No new check ins are permitted beginning 5:00 p.m. Saturday, March 28, 2020 through April 30, 2020. Visitors currently checked in may remain until the end of their existing reservations.
  • Long-term rentals of 30 days or more are still permitted by showing a valid lease agreement.

Federal Government - Economic Stimulus Package

Are there any new updates to the CARE Act?

  • The U.S. Senate passed additional COVID-19 relief for individuals, families, hospitals and businesses. The legislation totals $484 billion and delivers funding to small businesses, hospitals and for testing. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funding late last week, receives an additional $321 billion in funding in the Senate Bill. Initially created in the CARES Act, the PPP’s initial appropriation of $349 billion ran out of funding in just over two weeks. $60 billion of the $321 billion in new funding for the PPP program will be earmarked for “underbanked businesses.”
  • The legislation also includes an additional $60 billion in loans and grants for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Similar to the PPP, the EIDL loans through the SBA ran out of money shortly after the program became available to businesses. The deal also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing. Of that $25 billion for testing, $11 billion is earmarked to states.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Senate passed deal as early as Thursday, April 23.

What are the government stimulus packages I keep hearing about?

Families First Response Act

This Federal Act expanded paid sick leave and family leave, strengthened unemployment insurance and food assistance, and enhanced protections for health care workers. It was signed into law by the President on March 18 and takes effect April 2. The funding available for this bill was $3.5 billion.  The specifics of this program are described in greater detail in other FAQ’s.

Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations

This Federal Act was passed, authorizing more than $8 billion in funding for health care research and emergency funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of domestic and international response efforts respectively.  This Act does not provide much, if any, direct relief to most American families or businesses as its intended target was health care research and emergency funding for HHS.  

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”)

The most recent is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”).At about $2 Trillion dollars, the CARES Act is the largest economic stimulus legislation in American history since the New Deal in the 1930s.  This massive stimulus effort by the Federal Government is designed to provide relief for families, individuals, small businesses, and major sectors of our economy impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

What assistance is available to help my family?

Under the CARES Act, individuals and families will receive the following assistance:

  • The CARES Act includes a provision to send most Americans direct payments of $1,200, or $2,400 for joint filers, plus $500 for each child.
  • The amount of the payments will be reduced for those with higher incomes. For individuals filing taxes as singles, the reduced amount begins at an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 per year and is completely phased out at $99,000. For joint filers, the reduced amount begins at $150,000 and payment is eliminated at $198,000.
  • Your AGI will be determined by your 2019 tax filing (or 2018, if 2019 is unavailable).

Are there any federal programs to help my small business?

The primary, but not sole element of the CARES Act, is the small business-focused Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the CARES Act increases the government guarantee of loans to 100 percent through Dec. 31, 2020, for US Small Business Administration (SBA) Program 7(a) loans. SBA 7(a) loans are an existing type of SBA loan and is the SBA’s primary program for providing financial assistance to small businesses.  The loans are available to companies with not more than 500 employees and those which have below a gross annual receipts threshold in certain industries. Under the legislation, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals are eligible for loans.  Certain portions of the loans may be eligible for future debt forgiveness based on qualifying performance criteria.

  • The maximum 7(a) loan amount to $10 million through Dec. 31, 2020 and provides a formula by which the loan amount is tied to payroll costs incurred by the business (in order to determine the size of the loan). Allowable uses include overhead expenses such as payroll (employee salaries, paid sick or medical leave), insurance premiums, and mortgage/rent, and utility payments. The CARES Act allows lenders are able to make determinations on borrower eligibility and creditworthiness without going through all of SBA’s normal review processes.  However, anyone who has ever been through a SBA 7(a) loan process knows the true benefits of this alleged reduction in “red tape” will be interesting to follow.  Approx. 800 lenders nationwide are already approved for the SBA 7(a) loan program.  Regardless, the CARES Act also provides that same authority to new / additional lenders who join the program to make these loans.  Since determining repayment ability simply is not possible during this crisis, lenders are to determine whether a business was operational on Feb. 15, 2020, and had employees to whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes at that time.
  • Under the CARES Act, certain additional funds will also be available to the SBA for small businesses negatively affected by COVID-19 through Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL’s), and the existing 504 and “microloan” programs.  Basically, all of these existing loan programs have allegedly been expanded and simplified for COVID-19 affected small businesses.
  • The types of loans along with corresponding links to the SBA web pages which contain guidance and instructions for pre-qualification, other guidance resources, document mailing requirements, and application links are provided below:
    1. Paycheck Protection Program Application Form
    2. 7(a) loan
    3. Microloan
    4. Economic Injury Disaster Loan
    5. 504 Loan

To learn more about the CARES Act and how it can benefit your small business and what programs are available through the Small Business Administration see the attached Guide from the US Senate’s Guide to the CARES Act and or visit https://www.uschamber.com/

What specifically is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan?

  • This program provides cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
    • As earlier stated, in order to qualify you must be a small business with fewer than 500 employees that was also in business on or before February 15, 2020.
      • This includes S Corps, C corps, LLCs, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, non-profits, tribal groups, and veteran groups.
    • With a PPP loan your business can get up to $10 million. This amount varies and is based on a business’s payroll costs.
      • Specifically, the amount you qualify for is based on 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs. This is calculated based on your prior 12 months of payroll costs.
    • Included in a monthly payroll costs are salary, wages, commissions, payment of vacation, sick, parental/family/medical leave, payment of retirement contributions, group health coverage premiums and state and local taxes assessed on payroll.
      • This doesn’t include federal payroll taxes though.
      • It also doesn’t include payroll costs for those making more than $100,000.
    • The money can be used for payroll for the business owner and employees as well as rent, mortgage obligations, utilities and other debt obligations a business might have.
  • The interest rate for the PPP Loan is half a percent (.5%) essentially making it an interest-free loan.
    • While the bill that was passed allows for a maximum rate of 4 percent, the U.S. Treasury issued guidance stating that the maximum rate would be .5 percent. This basically means the rate can change but it cannot exceed 4 percent.
  • The loan term is two years. Loan payments are deferred for the first six months. In that time, you can either repay the loan or have it forgiven.

How do I calculate the PPP Loan amount I need?

  • We recommend contacting your local CPA for assistance calculating this figure. Our staff of attorneys is also ready and willing to assist you through this process if you just feel totally lost. Call us at (843) 839- 3210.
  • Below we have provided a sample calculation. Please be advised this is just a sample and subject to change.
ppp-calculations-example-worksheet
  • We know you may have a lot of questions working through this process, and our staff of experienced attorneys stands ready and willing to assist you and your business through these trying times.

State / Federal Courts

How does COVID-19 affect pending lawsuits?

  • If your case is pending in state court in South Carolina, the Supreme Court of South Carolina has issued an Order stating that all terms of court from March 20, 2020 through May 1, 2020 are cancelled. There will be no trials or motions unless an emergency hearing is granted by a chief judge for administrative purposes.
  • If your case is pending in federal court, federal courts are individually coordinating with state and local officials to obtain local information about the coronavirus, and have issued orders relating to court business, operating status, and public and employee safety. Check your local federal court’s website to see what orders they have issued.
  • The United States District Court of South Carolina has issued a standing order whereby all civil and criminal jury selections, jury trials, and roster meetings scheduled to commence through May 8, 2020 are continued, unless otherwise ordered by the Chief Judge. Judges and counsel can hold hearings remotely if all parties agree.
  • If you have specific questions regarding a pending lawsuit, you should contact the attorney who is handling the matter for you so they can better inform you on what this may mean for your specific court case.

I do not have a pending lawsuit, but I have some legal questions, are law firms still open?

  • Individual law firms are determining their own responses to COVID-19. The Pearce Law Group, P.C. is willing and ready to assist you with your legal needs and concerns. While we may choose to have a virtual meeting or phone conversation to adhere to current social distancing standards, we continue to assist clients and potential clients throughout this global pandemic while adhering to local and federal guidelines and ensuring the safety of our attorneys, staff, clients, and loved ones throughout the process.
  • We are open, taking precautions, monitoring the evolving situation, and continue to work to assist our clients. We have also taken steps to ensure business continuity should we have to close the physical office and work remotely.

How is COVID-19 affecting evictions and foreclosures in South Carolina?

  • The Supreme Court of South Carolina has issued a statewide order that all evictions currently ordered and scheduled statewide are to be rescheduled for a date not earlier than May 1, 2020.
  • Furthermore, the court will not accept applications for ejectment, schedule hearings, issues writs or warrants of ejectments, or proceed in any other manner regarding evictions until directed by a subsequent order by the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
    • The only exception to this is case-by-case that may be made for matters that involve essential services and/or harm to a person or property.
  • Lastly, the Supreme Court’s Order has mandated that there be a moratorium on foreclosure hearings, foreclosures sales, writs of assistance and writs of ejectments nor should courts proceed in any other manner regarding foreclosures until directed by subsequent order by the Chief Justice.

Business / Employment

I am a small business owner and I am concerned about my business surviving this pandemic, what can I do?

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing federal disaster loans for businesses of all sizes, private nonprofits, homeowners, and renters. (See link below).
  • SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace the following items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster: real estate, personal property, machinery, inventory and business assets.
  • The following are the types of loans the SBA is currently providing:
    • Home and Personal Property Loans- If you are in a declared disaster area and are the victim of a disaster, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the SBA, even if you do not own a business.
    • Business Physical Disaster Loans- Any business or organization located in a declared disaster area and that incurred damage during the disaster may apply for a loan to help replace or restore damaged property.
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loans- If you are in a declared disaster area and have suffered economic injury regardless of physical damage, you may qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
    • Military Reservists Economic Injury Loans– If you have an essential employee who is a military reservist called to active duty, SBA provides loans to help eligible small business with operating expense.
  • You can apply for this loan online or fill out a paper application.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights, what does it mean and how does it affect me as an employer?

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.
  • Covered Employers: The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by FFCRA, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision.
  • Generally, FFCRA provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:
    • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis; or
    • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasure and Labor; and
    • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need to leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • For more information on FFCRA, please visit:

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions

I let go of employees as a result of COVID-19, can my former employees file for unemployment?

  • Yes, unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
    • This extends to situations where an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus.
    • It also extends to an individual who is unemployed through no fault his/her own where an employer reduces the number of hours an employee works.
  • South Carolina law allows for the removal of charges from contributory employers when unemployment benefits are paid as a result of a natural disaster, either declared by the President of the United States or the declaration of emergency by the Governor.
  • The latest Federal Aid packages stand to dramatically modify the standard terms and conditions of Unemployment Insurance and those changes will be implemented on a state by state basis. In SC, SCDEW is the agency charged with responsibility for implementing these COVID-19 specific Unemployment Insurance programs and they have created an information clearinghouse for both employees and employers at https://dew.sc.gov/covid-hub .
  • NOTE: Employers who intend to lay-off or furlough workers due to COVID-19 related impacts to their businesses must take proactive steps, including EMPLOYER FILED CLAIMS, through SCDEW to better protect both the company and its employees.

I think my business has Business Interruption Coverage, what does that mean?

  • Physical Loss of or Damage to the Insured’s Property
    • Business interruption insurance typically appears as an add-on to commercial property insurance policies. This coverage makes the insured whole for lost income and additional expenses incurred during a period when business operations are interrupted because of a covered cause of lost.
      • The policy language can vary as some policies only cover specific perils such as a fire, hurricane or floor while some policies cover “all risks”.
    • Insurers are beginning to deny COVID-19 claims by stating actual physical loss or damage is required to the structure or property before this policy can be invoked. However, insureds should not take “no” for an answer as there are arguments to be made.
  • Contingent Business Interruption Coverage- Damage or Loss Suffered by Suppliers and Customers
    • A lot of businesses have suffered losses from COVID-19 due to the impact on third-parties i.e. their suppliers and customers. These losses may be covered by policies that provide so-called contingent business interruption coverage.
      • Insureds who may have suffered supply-chain losses should see whether their policy provides contingent coverage.
  • Many insurers have added exclusions precluding claims for business-interruption losses related to any “virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease.” If your policy has such an exclusion, you may have difficulty attaining coverage for COVID-19 related losses. However, it is important that this language be reviewed carefully and potentially with the assistance of an attorney who can better advise you whether the exclusion applies or no.

I have a contract and because of COVID-19, performance under my contract is not possible or will be delayed, how do I know whether my contract requires me to perform under the circumstances?

  • The doctrines of impossibility or impracticability may apply if a party can no longer comply with the terms of their contract due to COVID-19. These doctrines are state specific.
  • As the phrases imply, the general premise behind these doctrines are that after a contract is created, through no fault of the breaching party, performance is made impracticable or impossible.
    • Both the doctrine of impossibility and the doctrine of impracticability require a fact-specific review of the contract and circumstances and both doctrines are narrowly interpreted.  However, these doctrines may provide some relief for certain contracting parties as it relates to COVID-19
  • In addition to those two doctrines, frustration of purpose will likely be a common defense asserted by contracting parties because of COVID-19.
    • This doctrine applies when the basic purpose of the contract no longer makes sense given an unforeseen event.
  • If you believe you cannot perform under a contract or, conversely, have received notice from the other contracting party that it is asserting one of these doctrines/defenses, it is important to speak with a local attorney to evaluate your contract.
  • Your contract may also have a force majeure provision, which may excuse performance. For more information, see the next FAQ.

My contract has a ‘force majeure’ provision, will that provision relieve the company’s contractual obligations?

  • A force majeure (a French phrase meaning superior force”) clause in a contract, generally, lists unforeseeable circumstances that would allow either party to be relieved of their respective contractual obligations.
  • Force majeure clauses list specific events and any interpretation of whether COVID-19 will qualify will likely require any analysis of the relevant state law and the terms of the contract.
    • Covid-19 will likely qualify as a force majeure event if that provision specifically includes references to a “pandemic”, “epidemic” and/or “disease”.
    • However, it is unknown COVID-19 will be considered “an act of God” – a phrase commonly used in force majeure clauses. It is expected that this will be a litigated issue across the states.
    • There are other catch-all phrases in force majeure clauses, such as “disasters”, “national emergencies”, “government regulations” or “acts beyond the control of the parties.”
    • Whether certain performance will be excused will be a fact-intensive scenario and will rest on the language of the provision and the causal factors for the breach.
  • Force majeure provisions generally require that the party asserting it as an excuse of performance notify the other party to the contract of the relevant qualifying event.
  • If your contract contains a force majeure provision that you believe may apply to allow your non-performance, contact an attorney at The Pearce Law Group, P.C..  Our attorneys can assist you in reviewing your contract and help you determine whether a force majeure clause applies or does not and help you in asserting a force majeure clause or defending against the assertion of a force majeure clause.

Federal / State Taxes

Has COVID-19 affected the filing of taxes?

Federal Income Taxes

  • The IRS has changed the deadline to file federal income taxes to July 15, 2020.
  • Any taxpayer with a Federal income tax return or payment due on April 15, 2020, is eligible for relief. Taxpayers included an individual, a trust, an estate, a corporation, or any type of unincorporated business entity. The payment due refers to both 2019 Federal income tax payments (including payments of tax on self-employment income) and 2020 estimated Federal income tax payments (including payments of tax on self-employment income), regardless of the amount owed. The return or payment must be due on April 15, 2020 – this relief does not apply to Federal income tax returns and payments due on any other date.
  • Businesses or other entities that having filing due dates on May 15, June 15, or some other date besides April 15 have not been granted extensions at this time.
  • For more information, visit: https://www.irs.gov/

State Income Taxes 

  • The South Carolina Department of Revenue is providing special filing and payment relief to those impacted by Coronavirus in South Carolina.
  • The tax relief postpones various filing and payment deadlines starting April 1, 2020. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until June 1, 2020 to file and pay taxes for returns that are due between April 1, 2020 and June 1, 2020.
  • South Carolina has extended tax relief to:
    • Individuals and businesses located in South Carolina who have been impacted by Coronavirus,
    • Taxpayers who have businesses in South Carolina with offices in South Carolina,
    • Taxpayers whose tax records are located in South Carolina, or
    • Taxpayers whose returns are prepared by tax professionals impacted by Coronavirus.
  • Returns filed electronically by impacted taxpayers through MyDORWAY do not require any action to qualify for this relief. Taxpayers filing by mail should write “CORONAVIRUS” or “COVID-19” at the top of any paper return relying on this relief or complete the “disaster area” check box if one is provided on the return.
  • For more information, go to:

https://dor.sc.gov/resources-site/lawandpolicy/Advisory%20Opinions/IL20-3.pdf

Workers Compensation

Can I file a Workers’ Compensation claim if I get sick from coronavirus?

  • Many clients have inquired about potential Workers’ Compensation claims arising from employees contracting COVID-19 during the course of their employment. As with any communicable disease, the answer is not black and white. Circumstances regarding any alleged workplace exposure would need to be investigated. As with any ordinary virus, if it’s a condition that the general public is equally exposed to, the workers’ compensation policy would likely NOT apply. However, if the employee could prove that their job put them at greater risk than the general public of contracting the virus, some jurisdictions may grant coverage. Employers who have conducted their hazard risk assessment will be better prepared and have a better understanding of their true workplace risk of exposure.

Insurance

What are the insurance considerations stemming from COVID-19?

  • The nature and magnitude of claims related to COVID- 19 and the financial impact are unknown. In most scenarios, businesses would be challenged to find coverage for losses stemming from this pandemic; however, with ever-changing legislative landscape, coverage could be afforded under some policies. Below is a summary of key insurance coverages and how they would typically respond.
  • Business Income
    • Typically, in order for Business Income coverage to trigger on a standard Commercial Property policy, there must be an underlying covered cause of loss. This means fire, windstorm, hail or other similar type of event would have to occur. Diseases and viruses are not typically insured perils. Without the underlying coverage trigger, business income coverage would not respond. An endorsement for “communicable disease and food contamination” is available from insurance carriers. Often used by food-related industries, this endorsement is not added automatically and is very narrow in its definition of a communicable disease or contamination. Even with this endorsement, to trigger coverage there typically must be an order to shut down operations by a local, state or federal Department of Health (civil authority) in the jurisdiction of the affected property.
    • The communicable disease endorsement has a sublimit that may contain an aggregate and typically has a 72-hour waiting period with a limited period of restoration. It is not nearly as broad as the business income typically seen with a property loss.
    • An inability to access a business due to an order by a civil authority is something that can trigger a business income loss when caused by a “covered caused of loss” in the policy. This coverage is very difficult to trigger and typically has geographical limitations and exclusions that may apply.
  • Commercial General Liability and Pollution Liability
    • Commercial General Liability and Pollution Liability insurance policies may respond in a situation where an individual alleges they were infected with the coronavirus while on the insured’s property. The burden of proof would be with the injured party to prove causation and associated damages.
  • Directors and Officers
    • Directors and Officers policies may provide coverage for the costs and liabilities arising from shareholder lawsuits alleging that the company failed to act reasonably and plan appropriately in response to the coronavirus. Examples of this may include a failure to create adequate supply chains or failing to reveal financial risks that would result in financial loss to the organization.
  • Employment Practices
    • Employment Practices liability policies may provide coverage if claims are submitted as a result of sick leave and other human resource-related policies associated with the company’s coronavirus response plan.

Construction / Industrial / Healthcare

How does COVID-19 affect my company’s workplace safety obligations?

  • For now, OSHA and its state partners are viewing COVID-19 as implicating standards for General Industry (29 CFR 1910), Subpart J – General Environmental Controls, Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances, and  Recordkeeping / Reporting.  Importantly, COVID-19 is a recordable illness if a worker is infected as result of performed work-related duties.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

What steps can I take as an employer to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

  • Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
    • Stay up to date with guidance from federal, state, and local health agencies and incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans.
    • Plans should consider and address the level of risk associated with various worksites including:
      • Where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19;
      • Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings;
      • Workers’ individual risk factors; and
      • Controls necessary to address those risks.
    • Plans should also consider recommendations from appropriate agencies regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks such as:
      • Increased rates of worker absenteeism;
      • Need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsized operations, remote services, and other exposure-reducing measures;
      • Options for conducting essential operations with exposure-reducing measures; and
      • Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
    • Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
      • Employers should implement hygiene and infection control practices including:
        • Providing alcohol hand rubs (at least 60% alcohol) and implementing hand washing stations and frequency procedures;
        • Encouraging respiratory etiquette;
        • Encouraging sick workers to stay home and identifying and sending home sick workers who come to work;
        • Providing customers, public, and employees with trash receptacles;
        • Exploring policies such as flexible worksites, flexible work hours, or other practices to encourage social distancing
        • Prohibiting employees from sharing materials, rooms, or equipment unless thorough sanitizing practices have been implemented that meet manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products; and
        • Consulting EPA-approved disinfectant labels to use COVID-19 combative disinfectant products.
      • Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People
        • This process includes identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals as well as procedures for discharging them to home for medical attention.
      • Develop, Implement, and Communicate About Workplace Flexibilities and Protections
        • This process includes actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, ensuring that sick leave policies are made known to employees and are flexible and consistent with new public health guidance, not requiring healthcare provider’s note for employee absence, permitting employees to stay home to care for a sick family member, and working with insurance companies and state and local health agencies to provide information to workers and customers about medical care in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
      • Implement Workplace Controls
        • OSHA provides a “hierarchy of controls” framework to control workplace hazards. The best way to control a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace, but this may not be possible in the realm of COVID-19. The next most effective protection measures are listed from most effective to least effective below. It is likely that when considering ease of implementation, effectiveness, timing, and cost, a combination of these control measures will be necessary to protect workers and others from exposure to COVID-19.
          • Engineering Controls:
            • These are cost-effective in most situations and involve isolating employees from work-related hazards to reduce exposure. Examples include installing high-efficiency air filters, increasing ventilation rates in the work environment, installing physical barriers (such as clear plastic sneeze guards), installing a drive-through window for customer service, and specialized negative pressure ventilation in aerosol generating production situations.
          • Administrative Controls:
            • These require action by the worker or employer and are typically changes in work policy or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. Examples include sick worker procedures, best practices encouragement through signage, education, or other efforts, establishing social distancing work flexibility policies, discontinuing nonessential travel, developing emergency communications plans, providing specialized training for at risk workers or those who use equipment and appropriate sanitization policies and practices.
          • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE):
            • These may be needed to prevent certain exposures, but should be used in consolation with other prevention strategies. Examples include gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, and respiratory protection. PPE is selected based upon hazard to the worker and must be properly fitted, worn, refitted, inspected, maintained, replaced, and disposed of as necessary. PPE should be regularly cleaned and a plan should specify timely cleaning procedures. PPE must always be cleaned after each use. PPE should never be shared or exchanged without cleaning.
            • If you employ workers who work within 6 feet of patients known to be, or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, or if you employ workers involved in aerosol-generating procedures, your company will be subject to increased PPE and respiratory protection standards through the use of respirators. For a comprehensive review check OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134 at osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.134. PAPR, HEPA, SAR, or other types or respiration devices may be necessary depending on potential exposure to workers and company operations or industry type.
          • Follow Existing OSHA Standards
            • Although no specific OSHA standards address COVID-19, certain provisions of OSHA may apply to prevent occupational exposure to COVID-19 including:
            • The rest of OSHA standards applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found via the Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness, General Industry, and Federal Agencies charts accessible at osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html.
          • Identify Classification of Worker Exposure to COVID-19 for Employees
            • OSHA has developed an Occupational Risk Pyramid for COVID-19 that classifies occupational hazard risk from very high, high, medium, and to lower risk hazards. Th
          • Implement Travel Plans with Workers Living or Travelling Abroad
            • Employers with workers who are on international business or abroad in any capacity should consult the “Business Travelers” section of the OSHA COVID-19 webpage.
            • These employers and their employees should also consult CDC travel warnings and the US Department of State travel advisories.
            • Employers should advise employees abroad that USDOS cannot provide them with medications or supplies in the event of COVID-19 outbreak.
          • Consult OSHA Assistance, Services and Programs
            • OSHA offers compliance assistance specialists who can provide information to employers and workers about standards, short educational programs, rights and responsibilities, and information on additional compliance assistance resources through their website at osha.gov/complianceassitance/cas or at 1-800-321-OSHA or through you local OSHA office.
            • OSHA offers no-cost on-site safety and health consultation services for small businesses in all states, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Find your local on-site consultation office via osha.gov/consultation, or call 1-800-321-OSHA.
            • OSHA also provides cooperative programs, strategic partnerships and alliances, and voluntary protection programs that your company may qualify for. Consult the OSHA webpage for more information.

More Resources

Where can I find more information and resources regarding COVID-19?

Federal

State

Miscellaneous

Legal Advice About COVID-19

If you have any legal questions related to COVID-19 please contact one of The Pearce Law Group attorneys below.

Christopher H. Pearce, Esquire

Principal Attorney

843.839.3210 ext. 101 View profile
Charles B. Jordan, Esquire
Charles B. Jordan, Jr. Esquire

Attorney

843.839.3210 ext. 115 View profile
Kerry K. Jardine, Esquire
Kerry K. Jardine, Esquire

Attorney

843.839.3210 ext. 117 View profile
Hala Sadek
Hala Sadek, Esquire

Attorney

843.839.3210 ext. 119 View profile

Legal Disclaimer

*** This is a legal alert providing information on a rapidly developing situation. It is not intended to be and may not be construed as legal advice.

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