South Carolina’s tourism industry lost roughly $35 million because of last month’s historic flooding, the head of the state’s tourism agency told a panel of state senators Monday.
That will result in a loss of roughly $4 million in state and local tax revenue, S.C. Parks Recreation and Tourism director Duane Parrish told senators, tasked with determining how to pay for flood damage.
The tourism loss was due to hotel cancellations along the coast, Parrish said. Hotels in West Columbia and Lexington fared well during the flooding as out-of-town officials, responding to the flooding, stayed at hotels in those areas.
In addition, seven of South Carolina’s 47 state parks suffered significant damage that will cost about $7.4 million to fix, including beach erosion at some parks, Parrish said.
S.C. parks lost $470,000 in revenue because of the flood.
Meanwhile, Social Services director Susan Alford said 15 individuals in Richland County – 12 adults and three children – displaced by the flood are still in motels as her agency tries to find them temporary or permanent housing.
The agency had 26 shelters, serving 941 people, open in 19 counties at the peak of the flooding.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved issuing disaster-related food stamps in 24 counties, a one-time benefit provided through a card similar to a debit card. So far, 62,814 applicants in 11 counties have been processed for the program with about 90 percent approved.
The insurance industry has paid $58.3 million for claims filed by S.C. residents and businesses, said S.C. Department of Insurance head Ray Farmer. Losses so far total $139.8 million. Farmer expects both losses and claims paid to increase.
The Senate panel is one of two legislative committees looking into losses during the flooding as legislators try to get a handle on the disaster’s impact on the state’s budget.
Last week, the S.C. National Guard and its Emergency Management Division division told a S.C. House panel that responding to the flooding cost that agency almost $40 million.
Should S.C. borrow to pay for flood damage?
Democratic leaders in the state Senate will propose borrowing up to $500 million to fix state roads and bridges damaged in last month's historic flooding.
Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler of Lexington and Assistant Minority Leader John Matthews of Orangeburg plan to introduce a bill before the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.
The bill also would make $125 million available to rebuild roads not owned by the state. Local governments could apply for the money through the S.C. Department of Transportation, which would distribute the money based on need.
The money could not cover privately maintained dams, like those that failed and caused flooding in neighborhoods around lakes in northeast Richland County.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, called it premature to propose borrowing $500 million Monday.
“I would like to hear hard numbers” for damages, Peeler said, adding the $500 million proposed was “out of the blue.”
Jamie Self and Cassie Cope