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Utah Lays Out Its Coronavirus Economic Recovery Plan

Screengrab from a live video showing Gary Herbert holding up a piece of paper
Screengrab from video posted on the Salt Lake Chamber Facebook page
Gov. Gary Herbert holds a virtual press conference to release his economic recovery plan for the state

Utah’s economy has been suffering as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic. An economic plan released by the state Tuesday said as people stay inside to prevent the spread of the virus, there have been severe impacts to small businesses, and hourly workers are seeing significant layoffs.

The plan estimates Utah’s economy will remain in the “urgent” phase until at least mid-May, despite a desire from President Donald Trump to have the country “opened up” again by Easter, which falls on April 12.

The plan outlines resources available during that phase, including small business loans and unemployment insurance. It also gives recommendations, such as using government reserve funds to help the economy. 

“These phases will help businesses correctly balance the health of employees with the planning necessary for continuing operations,” Gov. Gary Herbert said. 

Following public health guidelines, like social distancing, will help the state emerge from that phase more quickly and into the “stabilization” phase, House Speaker Brad Wilson said. 

“Really, to some degree, the speed with which and which holiday we're celebrating when we move from the urgent phase to the stabilization phase is largely in the hands of Utahns at this point,” Wilson said. 

According to the plan, the “stabilization phase” will occur when the spread of COVID-19 and job losses has slowed. When coronavirus is spreading at a rate of almost zero and there is job growth again, the state will move to the “recovery phase” and begin to build its reserve funds back up again.

“The time estimates of the phases will give business the ability to set concrete objectives during a period of uncertainty,” Herbert said. “The time horizons give employees of those businesses confidence for return to normal work and household patterns.” 

Until then, it gets a little tricky figuring out who can get help from the state. 

The Utah Department of Workforce Services says people who lost their jobs or had their hours reduced will likely get unemployment insurance.

But for people that choose to stay home because they’re not feeling well and don’t have enough sick time, the answer is less clear. 

That’s the situation that Logan resident Sabrina Hatch finds herself in. She said she’s feeling a little under the weather but still goes to work because she’s anxious about her economic situation. And to make matters worse, her fiance’s job was eliminated due to the virus.

“I'm in a moral dilemma of do I take care of my family and risk other people getting sick?” Hatch said. “Or do I stay home and possibly lose my job?”

Hatch said her fiance plans to look into filing for unemployment insurance, and she’s hoping she’ll be able to start working from home soon.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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