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COVID-19 and the economy the focus of Utah legislative special session

FILE --Utah State Capitol. 1/27/20 (Photo credit: Colby Walker | KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY – Legislative sessions at the Utah State Capitol are usually open to the public, but Thursday’s special session will not be because of COVID-19. 

House Speaker Brad Wilson says those who will attend in person will be social distancing and wearing a mask. Others have chosen to attend remotely. 

COVID-19 may be the reason lawmakers had to change how they do business, but it’s also expected to be a hot topic of discussion during the legislative special session. 

Utah Special Session

Speaker Wilson says Utah’s economy is doing better than many other states, and its budget cuts were not as severe. However, they will still need to figure out how to distribute needed federal dollars. 

“We’ll be appropriating about $150 million of CARES Act funding to different programs around the state. Both healthcare programs, as well as some programs to help the economy and businesses navigate this to retain employees,” Wilson says. 

Tax relief may be on the way for some Utahns as well. 

“We have issues around taxes and ensuring, for example, that businesses that receive federal money in these grants that have come do not have to pay state taxes on those grants,” Wilson says.   

Education funding is also expected to be taken up by the legislature. 

Speaker Wilson says along with the economy, lawmakers aim to keep Utah’s COVID-19 case counts low. However, they will not be extending the State of Emergency. 

After meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon, Governor Herbert signaled that he will extend that State of Emergency. However, it may come in a different form. 

“He has the ability to issue [one through] the Department of Health, do a health emergency for the state, or do a gubernatorial call state of emergency. We’ve asked him to consider reissuing that [last one]. The reason why is, I think it’s a good time to level-set and reset whether or not we need to be in a state of emergency, and what the conditions and parameters of that are,” Wilson said. 

People who want to listen to the special session live can do so on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at le.utah.gov