COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A panel of South Carolina lawmakers voted to move forward with a $208 million proposal that would give the state health department, hospitals and others some additional funds to help with COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The joint resolution passed unanimously during a virtual House Ways and Means Committee meeting Monday afternoon.
Lawmakers said this money would help get more shots in arms in South Carolina.
The South Carolina Hospital Association agrees. Executive Vice President Christian Soura said their members have been making progress the last five weeks, “Our capacity to offer the vaccine is doubling nearly every week.”
The $208 million would come from the state’s Contingency Reserve Fund. Some of the money would be used to reimburse any extra costs like additional staffing, more marketing and education on the vaccine and upgrading mobile units.
Soura said this money will help prepare their members when more supply of the vaccine becomes available. He said, “What we are preparing for are larger scale vaccination events. The drive-thru clinics. These are very significant events that require quite a bit of staff.”
The $208 million is broken down like this:
- $63 million for DHEC
- $45 million for the Medical University of South Carolina
- $100 million for a vaccine reserve account
In that reserve account up to $75 million could go to hospitals in the state and another $25 million for other vaccine providers.
During a media briefing with reporters, DHEC Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said, “These funds would cover the costs of DHEC staff to help vaccine people in health departments or at other community clinics. That would help ensure there are clinics being held in rural and under served communities areas across the state.”
Dr. Traxler also reiterated that the limited supply of vaccine is one of the biggest challenges they are facing right now.
The $208 million proposal is now headed to the House floor.
The joint resolution would also expand who is eligible to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina. Dentists and physician assistant students would be included under this proposal.
House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-District 74) said, “What we are going to do is make sure South Carolina is not the problem. If we can’t get enough vaccines – we’re going to do all we can. Every issue we can handle will be controlled in this bill.”
In a statement, House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-District 65) wrote, “The initial handling and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has been unacceptable. It is necessary for the legislature to act in every way possible to improve our state’s overall response to this phase of the pandemic. We must ensure citizens are receiving the vaccine as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible, ultimately saving lives – all things that have not been happening. I plan to have the full House of Representatives address this measure as quickly as possible. I hope for swift consideration by the Senate. Time is of the essence.”