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PM News Brief: Federal COVID-19 Relief, Salt Lake Education App & Free UTA Fares

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KUER File Photo
The Utah Transit Authority is offering free fares for people getting their COVID-19 vaccine. UTA plans to do so through June 30. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, March 10, 2021

State

How Utah’s Disabled Community Is Dealing With COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Utah made COVID-19 vaccines available to people ages 16 and older with underlying medical conditions in February. That’s opened the door for younger people with disabilities to start getting vaccinated. But as of March 10, people with asthma still aren’t eligible. Neither are full-time caregivers who don’t meet certain qualifications. Psarah Johnson with the Disabled Rights Action Committee said many disabled people rely on friends and family for full-time care, so it’s important they’re vaccinated, too. The state said all adults should be eligible for the vaccine by April 1. Read the full story. Emily Means

Utah Getting $8 Billion In Federal Relief Package

Utah will be getting close to $8 billion in federal relief funding, according to an estimate from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. It comes as part of the latest coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress Wednesday, which includes funding for vaccine programs, expanded unemployment insurance and payments to individuals making less than $75,000. Darin Mellott, with the real estate and investment firm CBRE, said Utah’s economy has nearly recovered from the pandemic already, so the federal money should go to long-term investments such as job training programs and public transportation. Utah’s legislature also passed a $23 billion state budget last week. — Jon Reed

Vaccine Appointments Opening To All Adult Utahns By April 1

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said all Utahns will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1.The state expects 1.5 million first doses to be available by April 10. Last week, the Utah legislature approved a veto-proof bill that will end the state’s mask mandate then. Cox’s communications director said the eligibility date was pushed up to vaccinate as many people as possible before that date. State health officials announced 658 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. Two more people have died from the disease. — Caroline Ballard

Rep. Chris Stewart Introduces Two Bills To Help Rural Communities

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, reintroduced two bills Wednesday. Both are aimed at helping rural communities. The first piece of legislation increases access to federal grant programs. Some of those include rural business development, telemedicine and distance learning and improving broadband. The other bill is focused on transportation. Those grants would help communities better their infrastructure and improve airports and public transportation safety. Stewart said the legislation should help rural communities in Utah facing housing, education and infrastructure shortages. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Education Foundation Launches New App

The Salt Lake City Education Foundation announced Wednesday they have launched a new app. The non-profit said it will allow parents, students and staff to stay informed with what’s happening with the foundation. It will also connect them to resources like food assistance, help with rent or utilities and scholarship opportunities. Salt Lake City school district’s interim superintendent praised the app saying it will “help all students succeed.” Counselors and administrators can also use it to work with families. — Ivana Martinez

Utah Transit Authority Offering Free Fares To Vaccine Appointments

The Utah Transit Authority is offering free fares for people getting their COVID-19 vaccine. UTA plans to do so through June 30. Free rides will only be valid on the days of scheduled appointments and people must show proof when boarding. It’ll be valid on all modes of transportation, including Trax, Frontrunner and PC-SLC connect. UTA officials said they have the capacity to be a “team player” to help the community get vaccinated. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Katie Porter Stepping Into Her Role As Natural Resources Chair

A Democratic firebrand in Congress has a new role overseeing the oil and gas industry. Rep. Katie Porter, D-California, is known for her hard-hitting style. In her first two years in Congress, she grilled bank executives as a member of the powerful House Financial Services Committee. Now, as chair of the Natural Resources subcommittee on oversight and investigations, she’s doing the same to oil executives. As a congresswoman she’s already taking aim at the industry. Parker’s legislation would raise royalty rates on oil and gas companies for the first time in nearly a century, — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West New Bureau