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The Post and Courier: How to accelerate SC recovery and growth for everybody’s benefit

Posted By: Madeleine McGee Speaking Together , Together SC ,

This Commentary ran in the August 2, 2021 print edition of The Post & Courier

Folks who feel like nothing gets done in South Carolina in July will think twice when they read all that Gov. Henry McMaster’s accelerateSC task force is doing this summer to craft our state’s vision for recovery from the pandemic that disrupted our economy and upended lives.

As the name implies, its members are looking beyond recovery, aiming to accelerate economic growth and opportunity for all.

This team of civic and business leaders is preparing recommendations for the governor and the Legislature on how to spend $2.5 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funds allocated to South Carolina.

What we see emerging from the meetings is an exciting, targeted, three-pronged strategy for accelerating our state’s economic growth and transforming lives by:

  • Stimulating job growth through infrastructure investments that will enhance private-sector investment; e.g., investing in the port, broadband, tourism and agribusiness.
  • Ensuring that we have in place the education and training needed to prepare our workforce for both near- and long-term job opportunities; e.g., investing in technical colleges and cradle-to-career educational programming (supplementing as necessary the millions of dollars in federal aid going directly to the schools).
  • Investing deeply in the wraparound services critical for entry, reentry and advancement of our state’s workforce to create robust and sustained workforce readiness. These investments are still under development.

Many of us may take for granted the support services needed to advance our career growth. But imagine trying to focus on school or a new job when you are concerned about meeting your family’s basic needs of food, housing or health care. How much harder is it to succeed at work if you don’t have available critical support services such as reliable transportation, safe child care or senior care, afterschool programs for your kids, literacy training if your education wasn’t all that it should have been, computers and other technology needed to stay connected and do your job, role models and mentors, financial training, even mental health services.

As the task force finalizes its recommendations, we encourage its members to focus on these important wraparound services that will ensure all other investments do in fact accelerate our state’s economic and job growth for all.

What’s needed to provide these critical wraparound services is a true partnership among government, philanthropy and nonprofits.

Thankfully, accelerateSC has already proposed investing $50 million (about 2%) of the American Rescue Plan funds with nonprofit service providers.

We encourage accelerateSC, Gov. McMaster and most importantly our legislators to increase this proposed investment in the cost-efficient solutions and community support services that nonprofits provide.

Simply put, support services will enable equitable growth in our workforce, just as incentives will stimulate business investment.

We also encourage them to leverage decades of experience translating such investments into sustained gains by utilizing our state’s philanthropic and nonprofit organizations as integral players in this work.

These organizations work day in and day out addressing the most complex and costly challenges facing our state, from workforce readiness and housing to health care, community livability and basic needs. Deploying their existing grantmaking infrastructure and expertise will facilitate the most effective uptake of American Rescue Plan funds directly in areas most in need. In fact, accelerateSC’s objectives offer many chances for state agencies to partner with nonprofits to achieve greater impact.

Our nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, United Ways and community foundations are a natural source of efficiency and transparency due to existing regulations that govern their work. They already show transparency in tracking funds received and impact delivered, and they will bring critical accountability to this process.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move our state forward.

We need to utilize all the assets we have, leverage trusting relationships and accountability systems already in place, and build a transparent, responsive public-private partnership to achieve our state’s vision for recovery and growth for all.

Madeleine McGee is president of Together SC, a nonprofit that serves as the unifying voice for South Carolina’s nonprofit sector.