COLUMBIA — South Carolina senators spent less than two hours Tuesday deciding how to spend more than $2 billion in federal money flowing into the state. The T&D region could get millions for roads and economic development projects.
“We hope the money will be transformative,” said Sen. Brad Hutto. The Orangeburg Democrat said the money will fund projects that “will have an economic impact on our citizens for years to come.”
About $1.7 billion is COVID-19 relief funds.
Another $525 million are fines paid by the federal government in a settlement after abandoning a plan to convert plutonium from nuclear bombs into nuclear reactor fuel and promised deadlines to remove the radioactive material from the Savannah River site near Aiken were complied with.
Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties, where the Savannah River site is located, will receive $341 million.
Barnwell will spend $110 million on new school buildings, while Allendale County plans school upgrades and a new building for law enforcement and other government agencies. Aiken County is planning an industrial park, developing a cybersecurity industry corridor in North Augusta, and redeveloping neighborhoods near Aiken.
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Orangeburg County will receive $4.5 million for a speculative building in the western part of the county, $655,000 for the Hidden Valley Drive and Essex Drive sewers, and $1 million for the renovation of the Holly Hill Services Center, which is being done in conjunction with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical is carried out university.
The county will also receive $4.3 million for roads.
Bamberg County is getting $6.3 million for a speculative building in CrossRhodes Industrial Park, $2.3 million for airport improvements and $1.2 million for roads.
Calhoun County will get $1.2 million for roads.
Under the Senate plan, most of the settlement money will go to SRS host counties because they are recognized as having suffered the most economic damage, Hutto said. Smaller amounts go to circles in the area that were also economically affected.
Other South Carolina counties, such as Calhoun County, could also get a share of the statewide settlement for road works, Hutto said.
“Everyone in the state should benefit somewhat,” he said.
Hutto noted that the House of Representatives has yet to approve the Senate plan.
“It’s a process and we’re only halfway through the process,” he said.
Senators unanimously approved spending plans for settlement and COVID-19 funds. The plan faces another routine vote and will go to the House of Representatives.
“We will pay for these monies for generations. But investing that money wisely can spark transformation for communities across South Carolina for generations to come,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Harvey Peeler, a Gaffney Republican.
The majority of the COVID-19 relief funds – $900 million – are to be used to help rural water and sanitation agencies upgrade their systems. Gov. Henry McMaster proposed similar help, saying the money is a great one-time opportunity to repair systems that are reaching the end of their safety and usefulness after several decades.
Senators also approved spending $400 million to bring broadband internet to rural areas and $450 million to offset money the Department of Transportation lost after it cut gas taxes and other revenue during the pandemic had raised.
T&D contributed to this report.