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PM News Brief: Unemployment Claims Fall, Ben McAdams New Job & Depleted FEMA Funding

A photo of former Congressman Ben McAdams.
Kelsie Moore / KUER
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Former Utah Congressman Ben McAdams is starting a new job with the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, February 18, 2021

State

Governor Weighs In On Controversial LGBTQ Bills

Gov. Spencer Cox weighed in on COVID-19 vaccines, LGBTQ legislation and police reform Thursday at his monthly news conference. He spent the majority of the press conference discussing the state’s progress on COVID-19 vaccines, noting that about 62% of adults 70-years-old and older and 91% of long-term care facility residents have received at least one vaccine dose. He also discussed two controversial bills related to LGBTQ issues, saying he did not support them as written but wants to continue conversations around them to address concerns. Addressing dozens of bills related to police reform currently under consideration, he said many important changes are happening, even if some of the more progressive bills have been stalled or watered down. Read the full story.Jon Reed

Vaccine Appointments Open To All Utahns 65 And Up

Starting Thursday, all Utahns aged 65 and up are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Spencer Cox said the state is opening up appointments to more age groups faster than expected. “We’re methodically, via vaccination, targeting those who are most at risk, which will cut down on hospitalizations and deaths and allow us to get back to normal more quickly,” Cox said. Starting March 1, vaccines will be available to anyone who is 18 and older with underlying health conditions. So far, the state has given out nearly 564,000 doses of the vaccines. State health officials reported 1,151 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and seven more people have died from the disease. — Ross Terrell

Utah State Board Of Education Responds To Post From One Of Its Members

The Utah State Board of Education responded Thursday to public concern over a social media post from one of its members. On Facebook, Natalie Cline warned followers that a high school english teacher was celebrating communism and teaching students about gender issues and prejudice in law enforcement. She called the lessons unacceptable and “full-blown indoctrination.” Board leadership said in a statement members are free to speak as private citizens but they said Cline’s statements do not reflect the board’s position on any matter. She’s been both praised and criticized recently for similar remarks. A petition has been circulating online calling for her removal. — Jon Reed

New And Continued Unemployment Claims Drop Last Week

A little more than 33,000 Utahns continued receiving unemployment benefits during the second week of February. New data from the state’s Department of Workforce Services show that’s slightly down compared to the week before. About 3,800 Utahns filed for new claims. That’s 16% less than the first week of the month. Department officials said both drops are a sign the state’s economy continues to recover. About 1,600 people ended their unemployment claims. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Begins Phased Vaccine Appointment Sign Ups

Salt Lake County will soon open COVID-19 vaccine appointments for seniors ages 65 to 69. It comes on the heels of the governor’s announcement Thursday that all Utahns older than 65 are eligible to get vaccinated. County officials said appointments are required and walk-ins are not available. Registration will open in a phased approach, from those oldest to youngest. People 69 and up can sign up starting Thursday night at 6. Slots for people 68 to 65 open starting Friday through Monday. To sign up — seniors can go to SaltLakeHealth.org or call the county at 385-468-7468. The system will not allow people with a birth date after Feb. 23, 1956 to sign up. — Ross Terrell

Former Congressman Ben McAdams Joining Sorenson Impact Center

Former Utah Congressman Ben McAdams is starting a new job with the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center. The center studies policy and data to solve problems for nonprofits, businesses and government. It’s run out of the university’s business school. A statement from the center Thursday said McAdams will look for ways for the private sector to partner with the government on community issues. McAdams served one term as Utah’s only Democratic representative in Congress. He lost his reelection bid last year to Rep. Burgess Owens, R-UT. — Emily Means

Region/Nation

Federal Disaster Funding Could Be Depleted Soon

As the Mountain West prepares for another wildfire season, a recent fiscal report said FEMA’s disaster relief fund could be depleted as early as April. Brian Gerber is an emergency management expert at Arizona State University. He said it’s not unusual for the fund to fall to low levels and historically that’s when congress has appropriated more funds. Gerber said extreme weather, like the kind we’re seeing in Texas, is not going away anytime soon and that’s why it would pay Congress to invest in pre-disaster risk reduction. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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