More Need, Less Help
While other states have looked to Washington for assistance, Sanford has been a foremost critic of the federal economic stimulus package. Yesterday, he challenged the law's intent, announcing that he will ask the White House for a waiver to use $700 million -- the part of South Carolina's share of the money over which he has direct control -- to lower the state's debt, instead of putting it toward new spending.
Asked whose mission it is to help the widening pool of people in financial pain, the governor said that such aid "has to be leveraged through church, civic and private hands. . . . If you take care of the need in government circles, you dissipate the ability of civil society to take care of that need."
Timothy Ervolina, president of the United Way Association of South Carolina, worries that the web of philanthropic and nonprofit groups may not be able to fulfill the governor's expectations. Ervolina has watched fundraising fade at United Ways across the state, even as calls pour in to their crisis hotlines.
"Policymakers have said, 'You guys are just going to have to step up to the plate.' I hear that," he said. "But when I step up to the plate and no ball even is coming at you, it's pretty hard to make a hit."
He added: "We are increasingly taking on the role of a community grief counselor. Something has got to give, and that something is going to be people's lives."
As in Washington, residents of Columbia have viewed their city as recession-proof -- aside from the state government, it is home to the main campus of the University of South Carolina; big banks, insurance companies and hospitals; and Fort Jackson, the Army's largest basic-training site. So they have been stunned as Columbia's unemployment has rocketed up -- 11.7 percent in November, 13.1 percent in December, 14.1 percent in January.