Congressman Tom Rice is pushing to get more help for local business owners feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A roundtable discussion with business owners was held in Myrtle Beach to see if they got the Paycheck Protection Program, PPP, and what can be done better for them.

The PPP is aimed at helping business owners keep their workers employed during the pandemic.

Congressman Rice also talked about his plan to introduce a bill that offers a tax credit for maintaining a safe workplace to protect employees during the pandemic.

"You know what, we'll get past it. We will get past it and we will recover," Rice said. "We've got economic policies in place right now that we will recover and we will recover quickly once we get past this pandemic."

Rice held two more roundtable discussions Tuesday in Florence County.

Local business owners came together at the Florence Chamber of Commerce to share the success they had using the PPP. Owners say the program allowed them to navigate the pandemic while not having to layoff their staff.

One of the topics discussed was how small businesses had trouble applying or using the money. One of the possible ideas to help was offering financial literacy training.

"What we have been trying to do through this pandemic is preserve jobs for as many people as possible and we're hearing from the business community about how they have been affected by our relief program and how we can do better" says Rice.

The congressman emphasized the importance this feedback going forward.

Three Horry County politicians were among the thousands who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in South Carolina over the last couple months.

Now, Solicitor Jimmy Richardson, Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Congressman Tom Rice are planning a blood drive to get plasma from COVID-19 survivors that could help others fight the virus. 

And the public support has already exceeded their expectations. 

Once the drive was announced earlier this week, the event quickly exceeded capacity, far surpassing what the planners had in mind. 

“We were hoping to have 10 or 15 people show up. Now we have over 60,” Rice said. 

The blood and plasma drive will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at 2411 N. Oak Street in Myrtle Beach. Blood will be collected by the Blood Connection and will go directly to helping folks in the Grand Strand.

Founded in Greenville, the Blood Connection provides blood and plasma donations to local hospitals such as Horry County’s McLeod Hospitals. 

Those who recovered from the coronavirus can have the antibodies used to fight off COVID-19 still in their blood. The Mayo Clinic said the antibodies may be helpful in fighting the virus, but having them does not mean you’re totally immune. 

The Federal Drug Administration’s website asks people who have been COVID-19 clean for two weeks to consider donating plasma. It is unclear exactly how effective donated plasma with antibodies is in fighting the coronavirus, but researchers across the country are putting it to the test. 

How well do you think our state and federal leaders have responded to the coronavirus?

ABC 15's Donovan Harris sat down with Congressman Tom Rice Tuesday to see how he would answer that question.

Their partial conversation is below:

DH: Right now, South Carolina, according to the New York Times, ranks number three in the world in terms of new infections? Do you have any thoughts on that?

TR: I think we did a really good job upfront of holding it down and now it's catching up. I think this virus is going to spread across the country. Upfront, when we slowed everything down, the intent wasn't to wipe the virus out. The intent was to slow it down to a point that was manageable.

DH: Do you think we'll have to go back and shut things down again?

TR: I hope not. The governor has taken the first step to pause when he closed the bars and restaurants at 11 o'clock to stop the sale of alcohol. He recognizes this is a growing problem.

DH: The finger's being point at us as a rise in the spike in cases. Is that concerning to you when you see people blaming this particular area for this rise in cases?

TR: I'm not sure that all of that is properly placed. There certainly is a rise in cases. We're experiencing what other states have experienced three months ago when we shut everything down. I think the governor has acted responsibly through it. I think he's done a pretty good job.

DH: Do you have any criticisms of the federal government now they could be doing to stop the spread of this virus?

TR: I don't think anywhere has stopped the spread of the virus. I don't think they're going to. I think everyone in the world [will respond to flare ups] until we get a vaccine.

DH: People have politicized this virus. They've called it the "Wuhan Flu." You've called it the "Wuhan Flu." People are making this racial. Do you have any thoughts on people politicizing even a mask ordinance?

TR: I think we live in a really political environment right now. I don't think the term "Wuhan Flu" or "Wuhan Virus" is political at all.

DH: Is it racial?

TR: No. Is Spanish Flu racial or Hong Kong Flu racial? Is Ebola racial or every other disease that we've named after the place they arose racial? Absolutely not. I don't hold any ill will toward Chinese people whatsoever.

DH: Do you think there needs to be a state-wide mask ordinance?

TR: I don't think so. I don't think every community is the same. Having police officers tied up trying to make people wear masks would be an impossible burden.

DH: What are your thoughts on students physically returning to classrooms in the fall?

TR: If I was a parent, I'd be concerned but what we need to do is listen to the healthcare experts...

WASHINGTON – The National Retail Federation welcomed legislation introduced today that would give businesses a tax credit intended to help defer the cost of employee testing, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other steps needed to make workplaces safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Consumer-facing businesses are confronting considerable new costs to make their locations safe for their customers and employees,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “This tax credit addresses many of those new expenses, including the costs of reconfiguring stores and restaurants to provide more social distancing, and ongoing costs for protective gear and cleaning. A tax credit is particularly helpful for businesses that are facing reduced sales after months of being closed and are encountering these costs as they take the steps necessary to assure their customers that it is safe to return.”

The Healthy Workplace Tax Credit would be created under legislation that was introduced today by Representative Tom Rice, R-S.C., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. The measure would provide a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of costs incurred by businesses for COVID-19 testing, PPE, disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring workspaces. The credit is limited to $1,000 per employee per quarter for a company’s first 500 employees, $750 for the next 500 and $500 for each employee thereafter.

A 40-employee retail store or restaurant, for example, that spends $60,000 on covered costs would receive a $30,000 tax credit. If the credit exceeds the business’s employer payroll tax obligations, the excess would be provided in the form of a refund.

NRF has worked with members of the Ways and Means Committee to seek introduction of the bill. Some mid-size retailers have reported that the cost of safety measures can be as high as $1 million a week. Face masks alone can cost $1 per employee per day, or $30,000 a day for a 30,000-employee retailer.

Safety is a key issue as retailers reopen from the ongoing pandemic, and NRF this week called on all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy requiring customers to wear face coverings or masks.