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PM News Brief: Busy Fire Season, Professional Soccer Returns & Dinosaur National Monument

Photo of the stadium
Wikimedia Commons
The National Women's Soccer League's tournament will wrap up on July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

Wednesday evening, May 27, 2020

STATE

Utah’s Public School In Line For Massive Funding Cut

Members of Utah’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss up to $380 million in possible cuts to the state’s education funding. The hearing is part of a larger effort from Utah lawmakers to balance the state’s budget, which is projected to lose up to $1.3 billion in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Along with every other state agency, the Utah State Board of Education and legislative fiscal analysts were asked to provide recommendations for cutting 2%, 5% and 10% of the education budget. That’s in addition to $403 million state public schools had been granted in the 2020 general legislative session, but shelved as the pandemic took hold. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Budget Cuts Headed To Business Agencies

A state legislative subcommittee approved plans to cut up to $17.6 million from business, labor and economic development agencies, like the Tax Commission. It’s in response to falling tax revenues due to COVID-19. That includes eliminating up to 4.5 full time positions in the Labor Commission, some of which handle housing and employment discrimination claims. The Executive Appropriations Committee will consider proposed cuts from all agencies next month. — Sonja Hutson

One Utah Child Care Program Winding Down In June

Utah’s child care program for essential employees, like health care workers and first responders, will come to an end next month. The state’s Department of Workforce Services made the announcement Wednesday. Since starting at the end of March, the program has served more than 650 children. It’s scheduled to wrap up by June 30. — Ross Terrell

200,000 COVID-19 Tests

Utah has now seen more than 8,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 according to the latest data from the state’s health department. The Latinx community accounts for more cases of the virus than any other group. Four more deaths were reported today, bringing the state’s total to 105. More than 200,000 people have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Utah Rejects Federal Food Assistance Program

Utah’s state government refused to participate in a federal emergency program to combat child hunger during the pandemic. That’s according to a recent story by the New York Times. It reported Utah officials declined participation because they lacked “the administrative capacity” to distribute the funds. The federal program would’ve given food benefits to families of children who rely on school lunches. Utah families may have missed out on $50 million worth of benefits. Utah Department of Workforce Services spokesperson Brooke Porter Coles told the Times that getting a program running in a short amount of time can’t be too complex. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Fire Season Off To A Hot Start

Utah Fire Information tweeted Wednesday that the state has seen 237 fire starts so far this season and that 95% of those were caused by humans. In 2019, that many hadn’t been recorded until mid July. The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands puts about 22% of the state at moderate fire risk, and 8% at high risk. There are currently no ongoing wildfires. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

Professional Soccer Returning To Utah

It’s been nearly two and a half months since the last professional sporting event happened in Utah. On Wednesday, the National Women’s Soccer League announced it will play live games in the Beehive State. Starting June 27, the NWSL will kick off its 25 game tournament with the first game scheduled to take place at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no fans will be allowed in the stadium. The state’s professional women’s team — The Utah Royals — will set up a “village” for the league’s nine teams. Every player, referee and essential staff member will be tested for COVID-19 two days before coming here, upon arrival, and throughout their stay. The tournament wraps up on July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. — Ross Terrell

Dinosaur National Monument Increasing Access

Dinosaur National Monument is planning to open up more recreational access for camping and river trips. Starting June 7, all monument roads and trails will be open. Free permits will be available for backcountry camping and a number of developed campgrounds will be open with drinking water and restrooms available. River trips will also resume. Though most launch dates have already been assigned this season — any remaining ones will be given out on a first-come, first served basis. Following social-distancing guidelines — visitors centers and the Quarry exhibit will remain closed, as well as ranger-led programs. — Elaine Clark

REGION

American Indians Undercounted In Census

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2010, American Indians and Alaskan Natives were undercounted by nearly 5%. The agency hoped to fix that this year, but the pandemic has halted field work. The bureau says about 90% of rural America has yet to receive a Census questionnaire. But as workers return to the field, it’ll be a challenge to get to certain tribal lands, as some tribes have closed their borders to protect their hard hit community from the virus. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

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