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PM Brief: Human rights housing, TestUtah investigation & cleaning old mines in Utah

Two men blast holes with a rock-drill machine in an open-pit mine operated by the Utah Copper Company in Bingham Canyon Utah, November 1942.
Andreas Feininger
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
Two men blast holes with a rock-drill machine in an open-pit mine operated by the Utah Copper Company in Bingham Canyon Utah, November 1942.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County receives grant to help Afghan refugees

Salt Lake County is in line to get $150,000 to help Afghan refugees resettle. County officials said the money will help up to 550 people. Afghan refugees began arriving last fall following the U.S. exit from the country effectively ending the decades-long war. The money will go toward assisting resettlement organizations with things like rental assistance, mental health and trauma screenings and driver’s education. In February, Utah’s governor announced nearly 900 refugees had arrived. But the state still needed help finding long-term housing for more than 200 of them. — Ross Terrell 

Salt Lake City gets funding for human rights housing 

Salt Lake City has received special federal funding to fight human trafficking and the affordable housing crisis. The city’s housing authority announced Thursday it will get about $329,000 for its Human Rights Housing initiative. It’s meant to help survivors of human trafficking find affordable housing with the hope of helping them avoid incarceration. Salt Lake’s housing authority is one of nine groups nationwide to receive the special funds. — Ross Terrell 


Transgender community celebrates day of visibility

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility. The annual occasion comes less than a week after the Utah Legislature overturned a veto in order to ban trans girls from participating in girls sports. Advocates say the day is meant for celebration. But Sue Robbins, with Equality Utah, said it can be a double-edged sword because being visible could lead to more attacks. But visibility is important because it can change hearts and minds. Olivia Jaramillo, also with Equality Utah, said that while she sees the latest action by the Legislature as a setback, she’ll continue to work to counter misinformation about her community. Both women said they’re grateful for the governor’s veto and the few lawmakers who supported it. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery 

Investigation reveals serious issues with TestUtah 

Federal investigators say the TestUtah operation run by Nomi Health posed an “imminent threat to public health and safety.” The Salt Lake Tribune obtained documents that outlined more than two dozen complaints against Nomi’s COVID-19 testing. Some described ignored tests, storing used and unused swabs together and contaminated tests sitting on a lab table next to food. Officials decided on March 16 that Nomi’s testing posed immediate jeopardy to Utahns. However, the sites did not immediately shut down and government agencies did not issue a public warning. It’s unclear whether Nomi is now compliant with federal guidelines, but Thursday is the last day state-sponsored TestUtah sites will be open. — Caroline Ballard

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.


Money headed to state governments to clean abandoned mines

The bipartisan infrastructure law will send $16 billion to state and tribal governments to help clean up abandoned mines and oil wells. The Interior Department is in charge of the program and has already awarded some grants. According to John Baza, who directs the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, states need better outreach from the department on how to use the new funding. Baza told members of Congress Thursday that labor shortages will make it harder for Utah to do the work. He wants federal employees to work directly with the governor and state departments. Interior staff said they also plan to coordinate with tribal governments to count abandoned oil wells on their lands. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau 

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