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PM News Brief: Rental Assistance, Utah Jazz Investigation & Winter Olympics Boycott

Photo of the Vivint SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City
Pablo via Flickr
Last month, a former Utah Jazz player alleged team officials made racist remarks to him during his time with the team in 2015. The NBA cleared the Jazz of any wrongdoing. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, March 15, 2021


Utah Has More Than $200 Million Available In Rental Assistance

Utah officials announced Monday the state has $215 million to help residents struggling with rent. It’s a part of a pandemic rental assistance program. The money can be used for things like current or past due rent, security deposits and utilities. Lance Soffe, with the state’s Department of Workforce Services, said assistance will be around for a while. “This program does last through this year, through Dec. 31,” Soffe said. “There is new funding with the recent stimulus package that is slated to extend it to at least September of 2022.” Eligible households must be making at or below 80% of their area median income. People can apply online at — Ross Terrell

Utah’s COVID-19 Update

Utah’s nearly month-long streak of fewer than a thousand new daily COVID-19 cases continues. Health officials reported another 221 cases Monday. The state’s vaccine rollout also continues. So far, more than 365,000 Utahns have been fully vaccinated. Officials reported no new deaths Monday due to the virus. — Ross Terrell

Sen. Mitt Romney Calls For Winter Olympics Boycott

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, is calling for Americans to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Romney said they should do so both economically and politically. In a New York Times opinion piece, Romney said the U.S. needs to condemn China for its genocide of the Uyghur people and its crackdown on Hong Kong, among other things. Romney said American athletes should still compete, but citizens should not travel to China and the White House shouldn’t send diplomats and other officials there. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

NBA Clears Utah Jazz In Investigation

Last month, a former Utah Jazz player alleged team officials made racist remarks to him during his time with the team in 2015. Elijah Millsap accused the vice president of player operations of saying he would “cut his black a** and send him back to Louisiana.” Monday, the NBA cleared the Jazz of any wrongdoing. The league conducted an independent investigation and said it was “unable to establish the alleged statement was made.” Utah also released a statement backing its employee, saying he’s been a leading voice on social justice within the organization. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

NASA Using Navajo Language To Name Features On Mars

NASA is using the Navajo language to name features on the surface of Mars. Aaron Yazzie is Navajo and a mechanical engineer at NASA. He helped design drill bits on the current Mars rover. He said NASA named quadrants on the planet’s surface after different national parks and monuments across the U.S. The robot just happened to land in the one named after Canyon De Chelly, which is located on the Navajo Nation. Now, Yazzie is working with tribal leaders to come up with a list of names for features on Mars — or Maaz, as it’s known in the Navajo language. Read the full story.Kate Groetzinger, Bluff


California Zephyr Set To Return To Daily Service

Amtrak’s “California Zephyr” train will return to daily service in late May. The line has been running only three days a week since the pandemic started last year. The increased service comes thanks to $1.7 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding for Amtrak. The Zephyr runs between Chicago and San Francisco with stops in Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno. Officials said 1,200 employees will be brought back from furlough with the money. They’ll also be increasing service on 11 other long-distance routes around the country. — Elaine Clark

Virtual Graduation Plans

Last spring, college seniors missed out on traditional graduation ceremonies because of the pandemic. But things may look different this year, with some universities in our region opting to have in-person celebrations. For some, that means smaller, abbreviated events that will also include masks and social distancing.The virtual aspect of ceremonies has allowed parents and other extended family members that either don’t live stateside or nearby, to attend the event. Utah State University will host about 50 in-person college convocation events in May. Brigham Young University’s April 22 commencement ceremonies will be virtual. The University of Utahwill live-stream its general commencement on May 6. Dixie State will hold an in-person event May 7. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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