SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has announced Utah Leads Together 4.0, the latest roadmap to economic recovery in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This version of the plan invests in certain economic sectors, the governor said, in order to address “what needs to be done for economic recovery” in Utah.
COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing
No, we haven’t “flattened the curve” when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 in Utah. In fact, doctors say we’re in the middle of an accelerated phase of the spread. The state has seen 15,344 confirmed cases, with an additional 407 from yesterday.
Officials unveiling Utah Leads Together 4.0 say public safety was the first thing they wanted to prioritize in their new plan.
Utah Economic Recovery Task Force Chair Derek Miller says, “We cannot recover our economy unless we’re, at the same time, engaging in safe health practices.”
To do this, Miller announced the Stay Safe To Stay Open campaign, designed to help business owners learn the best ways to protect themselves from the virus while they keep their doors open. It asks employers to take a pledge to follow these guidelines.
“A pledge to engage in the best practices for health and safety,” Miller calls it. In return, store owners will get signs that reassure customers the businesses are safe.
Another special session
The special session of the Utah Legislature, taking place this week, was called to address economic recovery in Utah. But the governor said that Utah is on the road to recovery already. He cited the state’s recent 9.7% unemployment rate as being lower than the national average. Herbert said he is hopeful unemployment numbers will continue to go down.
Utah’s latest unemployment numbers are expected on Thursday.
However, he admitted that the relatively low unemployment number in Utah doesn’t make it any easier for the thousands of people who have seen their lives turned upside-down due to COVID-19. He expressed his empathy for those who are waiting to go back to work.
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said that lawmakers are headed into special session with the goal of balancing the state budget by June 30th. He says this will be done by “dipping into the rainy day fund,” and will involve no decrease in revenue for social services. “It will actually be increased by 6%,” Adams said.
And education in Utah will also see an increase, according to Adams.
Utah Leads Together 4: Plan to help the unemployed
House Speaker Brad Wilson says that within the next 100 days, the Department of Workforce Services will begin working with the unemployed in Utah to help them find work. He announced that the “Utah Economic Recovery Grant Program” will use funding provided by the federal CARES Act to help the unemployed.
Volume 4 of Utah’s recovery plan will invest in certain sectors, the governor said, including construction and infrastructure to prepare for the future and to “accommodate growth and prosperity.”
The plan also calls for increases in investments toward projects that act as a multiplier in creating more jobs. Economic Development Corporation of Utah CEO Theresa Foxley says federal money can help them do this, while making much needed upgrades to state infrastructure. She says some money can go toward shifting UTA toward natural gas and electric vehicles. Other funds could go toward increasing the number of the state’s electric car charging stations. Other funds could go toward improving waste water systems and dams across Utah.
However, Foxley says improving job training is one of their top priorities.
“The bottom line here is that we should make re-skilling faster, easier and more affordable,” she says.
Foxley announced there will be money set aside to help people get training on jobs that are currently available. Plus there will be expanded apprenticeship programs, and vouchers for one-year degrees.
She says, “We talk a lot about the digital divide and ways that we can close that gap through making broadband more accessible and available for tele-work, tele-medicine and tele-health.”
Simone Seikaly and Paul Nelson contributed to this story.
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