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PM Brief: No more masks on UTA, Utah GOP abortion platform & making up for missed lunches

Utah Transit Authority bus
KUER file photo
A Utah Transit Authority CNG bus in front of the Utah statehouse in Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Northern Utah

UTA drops mask requirements

Masks will no longer be required on Utah Transit Authority trains or buses. The move comes in response to Monday's ruling by a federal judge striking down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask requirement on public transit. In a tweet, UTA said it is no longer requiring masks to be worn anywhere on the system. The agency added it will continue to provide masks to riders who want them on buses and trains. — Bob Nelson

State

Making up for missed free lunches

Utah is extending food benefits to families whose children missed out on free or reduced lunches because of COVID this school year. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program adds funds to a family’s overall SNAP benefits. It provides $7.10 per student for each day the school was closed or if the child had an excused COVID absence. If a family wasn’t already enrolled in the regular free lunch program by last September, they now have until May 6 to sign up. If a school is part of the free lunch program, the benefits are automatic for days it was closed. Families will only have to apply for P-EBT for the days their kids were absent. — Elaine Clark

Utah GOP looks to toughen abortion platform

At its state convention this weekend, the Utah Republican Party is expected to consider a tougher line on the party's abortion platform. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the change would replace the phrase, "except to preserve the life of the mother," with the phrase “and encourage adoption.” The Tribune quotes a Weber County delegate who said he believes the proposed change focuses on available options other than terminating a pregnancy. — Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune

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

Imagining the state flag

Utah’s state flag is getting a makeover to incorporate a more inclusive picture of the state's population. Sienna Resinger is a ninth grader in Davis County, and she’s Navajo and Japanese. When she thinks about the flag she said it doesn’t really include her. "I don't feel like some people realize that people could be shoved out of something without people realizing it," she said. Claudia Loayza, the community engagement coordinator with the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, said the state has been working with community partners to distribute a feedback survey and have resources in five other languages. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Mixed unemployment around the region

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in March — a new pandemic-era low. That’s just short of where it was before COVID shook up the economy. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not all states in the region have rebounded. New Mexico had the highest state unemployment rate at 5.3%. Nevada followed at 5%. Jill Gonzalez, analyst for the personal finance website WalletHub, said New Mexico’s older demographics are a factor, with people taking early retirement. Meanwhile, Utah, Montana and Idaho all have unemployment rates lower than 3%. — Kaleb Roedel, Mountain West News Bureau

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