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PM News Brief: COVID Updates, Job Growth & Money For Schools And Art

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers
Utah public schools ended the week on a high note after lawmakers opted to tap into reserve funds rather than cut the state’s education budget next year. This story and more in the Friday evening news brief.";


Friday afternoon, June 19, 2020


Guilty Plea In Adoption Smuggling Case

An Arizona County Assessor at the center of an international adoption fraud case pleaded guilty to human smuggling in Utah Friday. Paul Petersen is accused of smuggling pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States so they would have their babies here and put them up for adoption. Petersen faces the maximum term of up to 15 years in prison, a $50,000 fine and forfeiting his law license. Petersen also faces additional federal charges in Arizona and Arkansas. — Caroline Ballard

More Money For Schools

Utah public schools ended the week on a high note after lawmakers opted to tap into reserve funds rather than cut the state’s education budget next year. During Thursday’s special session, lawmakers voted to increase education funding by 1.3% overall, including a 1.8% increase to per pupil spending. That brings student funding to $3,596, up about $60 from the 2019-2020 school year, in addition to $50 million for increased enrollment. — Jon Reed

Arts Funding

As Utah begins to divy up the $1.2 billion it received from the federal CARES Act, it will earmark some of that money for cultural organizations. The COVID-19 Cultural Assistance Grant Program specifically sets aside $9 million for things like zoos, botanical gardens and recreation. Organizations that receive funds must have at least $5 million operating budgets. The Utah Cultural Alliance said it’s excited about the money. It notes arts and humanities agencies did not experience many cuts during the special session. — Caroline Ballard

Utah’s May Job Growth

Utah ranked first in the nation for total job growth and private sector job growth in May. It was second for unemployment. But even as it was doing better than other states, Utah’s economy was still contracting. According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, its total job growth and its private sector job growth were both down nearly 5% year-over-year. May’s unemployment rate was 8.5%. Two sectors did see job gains: construction and financial activities. But the rest of Utah’s major industry groups like trade and leisure & hospitality saw losses. — Caroline Ballard

Highest Single Day Of New COVID Cases

Friday marks the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day in Utah since the start of the pandemic. The Utah Department of Health reported 586 new cases statewide. There were also three deaths — all men over the age of 65. Two were from Salt Lake County and one from Washington County. That brings Utah’s total deaths to 155. — Elaine Clark

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Southern Utah

Three Southwest Counties Go Green - Despite COVID Spike In Region

There are now three counties in the southwest health district that are in the green phase of reopening, also known as the new normal. This shift comes even as the region has seen a spike in coronavirus cases. The Southwest health department announced the biggest increase in new cases Friday with 55 new cases and nine total deaths confirmed. — Lexi Peery

Northern Utah

Juneteenth In Salt Lake County

Salt Lake County raised the red, white and blue Juneteenth flag at a ceremony Friday, where Mayor Jenny Wilson proclaimed the county’s support of the holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day when the last enslaved people in the U.S. were freed in 1865. The recent movement around racial injustice and police reform has led to a greater awareness of the Juneteenth celebration, and there’s a push to make it a national holiday. The theme of Utah’s Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival is “United in Hope.” Read the full story. — Emily Means


Great American Outdoors Act Passes — With Mountain West Dissent

The Great American Outdoors Act passed the Senate with solid bipartisan support. It would fully and permanently fund a program that preserves and acquires public land. But bipartisan doesn’t mean unanimous. No Senators in Idaho, Wyoming or Utah signed onto the bill, citing concerns over it growing the federal deficit, losing oversight and failing to include other programs that help rural areas near public lands. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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