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Softening the economic impact of coronavirus in Utah

FILE PHOTO: SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced Wednesday she would be lifting her week-long curfew, nearly five days before its original end date. (Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Bracing for the other impact of the coronavirus.  Leaders from the and from Salt Lake City aren’t just worried about public health and safety.  They’re putting teams together to help soften the economic blow, as well.

When the coronavirus showed its first signs of rapid, global spread, analysts expected there to be a huge negative impact on Utah’s tourism and hospitality industries.  Sure enough, we’re seeing it happen.  Visit Salt Lake CEO Kaitlin Eskelson says several organizers have already pulled the plug on events that were supposed to happen, soon.

“So far, we’ve had about seven confirmed city-wide convention cancellations, all within the next few months.  Those equate to about $45 million in delegate spending loss for Salt Lake County,” she says.

That number doesn’t include the $4 million dollars that were going to be spent by local groups holding large meetings in Salt Lake.

Governor Gary Herbert took part in a conference call with President Trump and Vice President Pence to see what kinds of relief will be sent to the states.  Governor Herbert announced the formation of an economic response task force that will keep an eye for new problems arising from business shutting their doors.  He says they’re trying to make people feel as comfortable as they can during this disruptive time.

“If, in fact, you have lost your job because of this situation, or if your hours have been reduced, there is help available through the Department of Workforce Services,” Gov. Herbert says.

Unemployment Insurance Director Kevin Burt says people who have paid leave would not qualify for these payments, but, he says the worst thing to do would be to convince yourself you wouldn’t qualify.  He says even if you’re convinced you won’t, apply anyway.

Burt says, “Just give us some time to process it.  We do expect an increase in claims.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says the Small Business Administration is setting aside $50 billion to help employers deal with the costs of closure and the impact of coronavirus, nationwide.  However, that money might not be available for a while.  So, she’ll be asking the Salt Lake City Council to release $1 million in emergency funds to cover these costs until federal benefits can kick in.

In the meantime, she is asking landlords and property owners to be flexible when collecting rent since more people than usual could be out of work.

Mendenhall says, “Now is the time for us to think like a community so that we can be stronger, sooner as the virus subsides.”

Last week, the city’s Economic Development Team sent out a survey asking business owners what their concerns are.  Mendenhall says 76 percent of the businesses that responded have seen more than a 10 percent drop in revenue.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States