COVID-19 Resource & Action Center for Local Businesses


Table of contents:

What resources are available to help my business re-open when we’re ready?
What are the latest regulatory updates for South Carolina?
What loans and grants are available to help my business?
What resources are available to help ensure my loan is forgiven?
What support is available to my employees?
What is Lowcountry Local First doing to support us?
View our schedule of webinars to keep you informed and connected.
Additional resources.
Read, watch and listen about LLF in the news.


 What resources are available to help my business re-open?

• Browse our Local Supply Hub for personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Download, print and display a poster in your storefront to help instill confidence in your customers that you’re operating in a safe manner. Download 8.5×11″ // Download 11×17″. If you’re a current member of the organization, we’ll bring an 11×17″ version to you. Just ask us!
• Nexsen Pruet shares guidance on what’s legal for Covid testing and screening in the workplace (Oct 28, 2020).
• SC DHEC released new guidelines on June 29 to assist employers in addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers are advised to review and implement the guidance into their current policies and procedures. Following DHEC guidance (along with OSHA and CDC guidance) is the best way employers can avoid liability concerns with respect to operating in a COVID-19 environment. (Via the SC Employers’ Blog by Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd PA)
• The One Region initiative’s re|IGNITE plan provides a guide for a safe return to business in our community. Included with the plan are industry-specific guidelines to guide various industries to safely reopen to employees, customers, vendors and others. More industry-specific guidelines will release in the coming weeks. The plan and guidelines leverage expertise from business, healthcare, nonprofit and government sectors to create a coordinated, science-based plan to restore Charleston’s regional economy.
Retail: The National Retail Federation’s “Operation Open Doors” provides resources and a checklist to help retail establishments work towards re-opening.
Retail: CORE Architecture hosted this informative webinar with insights and adaptation recommendations for retail (recorded May 20)
F&B: FAB Charleston + Core Architecture hosted an informative webinar (recorded Apr 30) and slides with detailed, tactical information aimed at helping independent restaurants work towards reopening safely.
• F&B: Restaurant Reopening Checklist (as shared by member business Berlin’s Restaurant Supply)
F&B: Bentobox offers free webinars on how to improve the technology in your restaurant to provide seamless (and touchless) service
F&B: James Beard Foundation’s industry webinars for restaurants looking to reopen
F&B: Use Oyster Social’s free “Critical Path to Reopening” spreadsheets and resources for restaurants and bars – covering finance, to operations to marketing


What are the latest regulatory updates for South Carolina?

• Oct 2: Gov. Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-63, which lifts all occupancy limitations in restaurants throughout South Carolina, effective immediately. “… A provision prohibiting guests from congregating at bars will remain in place, along with a rule requiring employees to wear face coverings. An 11 p.m. restaurant alcohol sales cutoff, covered by a separate executive order, also still stands. …” – Read more via Post and Courier.
• Aug 26: Gov. McMaster agrees to accept federal unemployment aid from Trump administration. Learn more.
• July 29: Gov. McMaster announced that all previously recommended guidelines for restaurants and other establishments that attract groups of people are now mandatory. The governor’s Executive Order establishing these new measures will go into effect Monday, Aug. 3. Read more.
• July 29: Gov. McMaster announced that other types of businesses, facilities, venues, events or mass gatherings are permitted to open but are required to implement AccelerateSC guidelines include the following: festivals, parades, concerts, theaters, stadiums, arenas, coliseums, auditoriums, grandstands, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, concert halls, dance, halls, performing arts centers, parks, racetracks, or similarly operated entities. Read more.
• July 15:
The City of Charleston begins to enforce additional COVID safety measures, including limiting restaurant/bar capacity to 50%, enforcing mask ordinance compliance in indoor settings and outdoor when maintaining 6ft. social distancing is not possible, and no amplified music after 9 p.m. Read more.
• July 10:
Gov. McMaster signed a new Executive Order mandating that bars and restaurants stop sales of alcohol at 11 p.m., to go into effect on July 11. 
• July 1:
The City of Charleston’s single-use plastic regulations resumed following a temporary pause following an Emergency Ordinance for COVID-19 due to global supply chain issues.
• May 18:
Gov. McMaster announced that close contact service providers, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, and public or commercial pools will be able to open in a limited capacity on Monday, May 18. Close contact service providers include the following businesses: Barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons, threading salons, nail salons and spas, body-art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage-therapy establishments and massage services. Read more.
• May 12: Charleston City Council approved an emergency ordinance allowing local restaurant owners to apply for temporary use of additional areas – such as private property and public sidewalks – for outdoor dining. Learn more and apply here.
May 8: Governor McMaster to allow restaurants to resume limited dine-in service starting Monday, May 11 under certain guidelines. Read more.
May 1: SC lifts “home or work” executive order, effective May 4. Read more.
Apr 27: Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-29, which declares a state of emergency throughout the state for an additional 15 days and allows for the state’s response to COVID-19 – and the ever-evolving challenges the pandemic presents – to continue. Read more.
• Apr 23: In response to Gov. McMaster’s Executive Order allowing retail stores to reopen, Charleston City Council passed an emergency ordinance aimed at decreasing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in retail businesses. The ordinance imposes a rigorous set of health and safety requirements on all retail businesses that are open to the general public during the COVID-19 state of emergency, including strict occupancy limits, social distancing policies, employee monitoring and protection, deep cleaning protocols, appropriate use of masks and gloves, and more. Read more.
Apr 20: Gov. McMaster has allowed retail stores to reopen under these guidelines: All stores in the state are expected to limit capacity to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20 percent occupancy, whichever results in fewer customers in the business at one time. Read more. All other SC executive orders, including the “Work or Home” order remain in effect, and social distancing practices should be maintained.


What loans and grants are available to help my business? 

• The Small Business Majority has compiled a list of COVID-19 loan and grant opportunities for small businesses by state. See the SC list here.
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are now available to businesses affected by civil unrest from May 28 through June 30, 2020.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) loans are also still available for revenue loss due to Covid. EIDL are not forgivable, but have low-interest rates (3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits), maturity of up to 30 years and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Learn more and apply through the SBA.
• On June 5, the PPP Flexibility Act was passed to ease restrictions on small businesses receiving PPP loans. Read more here. Modifications include:
– Increase the loan forgiveness period from 8 to 24 weeks
– Reduce the proceeds required for payroll from 75 to 60%
– Increase the loan repayment period from 2 to 5 years
– Allow payroll tax deferral for PPP recipients
– Extend the June 30 rehiring deadline
• Funding is still available through the Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act (as of July 6, 2020). View the entire Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act as provided by the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Mar 30, 2020. NOTE: The original application deadline of June 30 was postponed to August 8, 2020.
• Review this Checklist to ensure you’re eligible and have what you need to apply.
• Need capital to cover the cost of retaining employees? The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) might be right for you. This 4-min video (shared above) is a great place to start. Download the application here and be prepared to submit no later than August 8, 2020. Payments come through financial institutions so be sure your bank or credit union is an approved SBA lender. You can only submit one application, so do not submit to multiple financial institutions as that will only bog down the system. Review this helpful PPP fact sheet.
• Need a quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now? You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant. If you have already submitted for an EIDL loan, you must reapply to get the $10,000 grant portion.
• Concerned about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help.
• Looking for free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time? These resource partners might be your best bet.
Información sobre préstamos para pequeñas empresas via SBA.

• Local Farms: The American Farmland Trust has opened applications for their Farmer Relief Fund which will award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis. Learn more here.
• View the Farmers’ Legal Action Group’s guide to COVID-19 relief.

What resources are available to help ensure my loan is forgiven?

EZ Forgiveness Application Update: The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released a streamlined form for applying for forgiveness with your Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lender. You are eligible to fill out the EZ Forgiveness Application if you meet one of the following requirements:

• You are self-employed and have no employees;
• You did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of your employees;
• You experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees by more than 25%.

Note: Businesses that don’t meet one of these requirements will still need to complete the Full Forgiveness Application

The SBA has also updated its PPP guidance to reflect changes enacted by the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. Businesses now can use PPP funds over a 24-week period, and the covered period for the loan was extended until Dec. 31, 2020. The updated guidance can be found here.

What support is available for my employees? 

• Employers can file a claim for any employees being laid off, stating that you had to lay them off. This allows the employee to collect benefits for 6 weeks without being required to look for another job. Learn more.
• The Charleston County Public Library has organized this list of foundations offering grant assistance to restaurant workers as well as gig, and low-earning contract workers.
• The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 but can recoup the cost. Learn more. This additional document is helpful.
• Unemployment benefits have been increased. An employee may receive up to $926/week or roughly $23/hour (combining state and federal weekly benefit) for up to 16 weeks, and is not required to search for another job.
• FAQs on Covid-19 and Unemployment Insurance Benefits – SC Dept of Employment and Workforce
• SC Dept of Employment and Workforce COVID-19 Resource Hub
• SC DEW’s unemployment application page for self-employed / gig workers


What Lowcountry Local First is doing to support you now: 

• Download, print and display a poster in your business front window / entryway to help instill confidence in your customers that you’re operating in a safe manner. Download 8.5×11″ // Download 11×17″. If you’re a current member of the organization, we’ll bring an 11×17″ version to you. Just ask us!

• Browse our Local Supply Hub for personal protective equipment (PPE)

Adopt a Local Restaurant and pledge weekly support of your favorite food and beverage business(es).

Pledge to support your local-independent businesses.

Download and use these social graphics to update your customers on your adjusted offerings.

• Charleston Legal Access has partnered with law firms Nelson Mullins and Jackson Lewis, Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), and Lowcountry Local First to launch a remote legal clinic to help small businesses and nonprofits in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Hampton, Jasper counties weather the economic impact of COVID-19. Qualifying small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and nonprofit organizations can submit their legal question using this online screening form. Pro bono lawyers with expertise in that particular subject matter will then be matched with a small business to offer a free 45-minute virtual or telephone legal consultation, helping small business owners and nonprofits navigate the CARES Act, or questions related to employment, contract enforcement, commercial leases, insurance and insolvency.

Upcoming Webinars (FREE):

Sept 3: Reimagining Your Business – Register online
• Oct 1: Developing Confident Leaders – Register online
• Nov 5: Reimagining Workspaces – Register online
• Dec 3: Federal Loan Forgiveness – Register online

View Past Webinar Recordings:

Crisis Communications, recorded Mar 20. View video and slides.
Navigating Business Relief Options with the SBA, recorded Mar 24. View video and slides.
It’s On My Mind: Marketing & Management Tasks During Coronavirus & Social Distancing, recorded Mar 25. View video. View slides.
How to Launch a Digital Marketing Campaign in 3 Easy Steps, recorded Mar 31. View video and slides.
Cooking Live & Local with Lauren, recorded Apr 1. View video and recipe (coming soon).
An Employer’s Guide to Emergency Leave & Unemployment, recorded Apr 2. View video and slides.
Demystifying the CARES Act: What’s in it for local businesses?, recorded Apr 6. View video and slides.
Part II, Navigating Business Relief Options with SBA, recorded Apr 8. View video and slides.
Navegando Las Opciones de Ayuda Empresarial con el LDC, recorded Apr 17. View video and slides.
Crafting Crisis-Proof Business Contracts, recorded Apr 21. View video and slides.
• LLL y HBA presenta: Manejo del estrés en crisis es clave para el éxito empresarial, recorded April 28. View video and slides.
Conversation with Congress for the Local Business Community, recorded May 18. View video.
How to Package and Ship Products like a Pro, recorded May 27. View video.
• Actions Cities Can Take to Support Local Businesses, recorded Sept 9. View video.


Additional resources & ways to help: 

• MUSC Health has a list of ways you can offer food donations to their employees being impacted by the crisis.
• Donate to the Food Bank’s matched Fueled by Fresh campaign.
• Sam Adams is offering $1,000 grants to restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19. Learn more.
• Facebook has launched a $100 million grant program for small businesses affected by the virus.
FOX 24 News is pledging to give half a million dollars in free commercial air-time to locally owned & operated businesses.If your business is being negatively affected by this crisis, email them at
View SC Department of Commerce resource center.
View SC employment law resources.
• The City of Charleston has suspended their single use plastic ordinance for 60 days as of Friday, March 20.
• The City of Charleston has implemented temporary curbside parking relief zones to provide support for local businesses that are fulfilling curbside pickup and delivery orders in lieu of dine-in service. These spaces are free for use by restaurant employees, delivery drivers and curbside pickup patrons. See locations here. Submit feedback or requests to
• Gotcha is offering electric scooters to local restaurants and retailers to aid in local deliveries.


LLF in the news:

Commentary: Will we have the guts to do things differently?, in the Post and Courier, May 14, 2020
One Region Releases Strategy and Guidelines to Safely Reopen Tri-county Area , in The Daniel Island News, May 11, 2020
• Lowcountry Local First Advocates A New Normal For Charleston’s Economic Future, in The Chronicle, May 10, 2020
Helping Out for April 22, 2020, in Charleston Regional Business Journal, April 22, 2020
How you can “adopt” a Charleston restaurant during crisis, in Charleston Currents, April 20, 2020
Help a Charleston eatery and their employees by ‘Adopting’ a local restaurant, in Charleston City Paper, April 18, 2020
How to support local restaurants and out of work staff in CHS Today, April 17, 2020
As independents face grim future, Charleston nonprofit asks diners to ‘Adopt a Restaurant’ in The Post & Courier, April 17, 2020
Lowcountry Local First offering online “Local Social” and other resources for Charleston businesses affected by COVID-19, in Charleston City Paper, April 8, 2020
GOOD NEWS: It’s really time to lift a glass or two in Charleston Currents, April 6, 2020
Coping with COVID: Lowcountry Local First in Charleston Regional Business Journal, March 30, 2020
Lowcountry Local First put together a huge list of local businesses you can support right now. in CHS Today, March 26, 2020
Charleston defers proposal that would float local small business loans, citing “fluid” situation with coronavirus recovery, in Charleston City Paper, March 26, 2020
SBA economic disaster loan webinar a hot ticket in SC, in The Post & Courier, March 25, 2020
Richard Todd talks with Jamee Haley on the Bridge 105.5, on 105.5 The Bridge, March 20, 2020
Restaurants, business owners searching for solutions after Governor’s order to limit customers, in Count on 2 News, March 18, 2020
Commentary: You can help keep our community afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, in The Post & Courier, March 17, 2020
Haley: How Charleston leaders, businesses, and residents can support the local community through the coronavirus crisis, in Charleston City Paper, March 16, 2020


Our Policy Recommendations: 
(Posted Mar 17, 2020)

What we’re advocating for with our local officials:

• Expedite permitting for small businesses who are overwhelmed by regulations, arbitrary design requirements and multiple government agency hurdles
• Provide FREE parking downtown for employees and patrons
• Create an emergency leave and income assistance fund to support those who lose income in circumstances directly or indirectly related to the spread of the coronavirus to compliment the Families First Relief Bill.  *This is currently in the works with the City of Charleston and will be voted on Tuesday, March 24th. We are working with the City and LDC Charleston to engage the business community. Other municipalities are being encouraged to offer similar support.
• Provide grants to support small businesses that will allow them to keep on employees.
• Waive impact fees.
• Let farmers’ markets stay open. They should be treated like grocery stores. Our growers, fishers and purveyors need us now more than ever.

What we’re advocating for with our state officials:

• Suspend all tax payments (sales, beer, wine, income etc.) for the duration of the recession starting with April 1 payments. *Current policy has this starting in April.
• Expedite payments to hourly employees who are laid off due to closures, COVID-19 related illness (themselves or caring for others) or lack of business.

What we’re advocating for with our federal officials:• Grants to support local businesses, particularly the food and beverage industry that we rely so heavily upon and who are getting hit the hardest.

• Suspend all income tax payments for the duration of the recession.
• Provide 0% interest loans to small businesses.