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AM News Brief: Utah Wildfires, UTA Fares & Rental Relief Spending

Photo of a TRAX train.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
The Utah Transit Authority is testing out half-price fares for people who have traditionally had challenges accessing public transit. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, June 18, 2021

State

Utahns Plans To Celebrate Juneteenth

Last summer’s protests against racial injustice put Juneteenth on the map for many Utahns. For celebrations this year, organizers are working to keep the focus going for racial equality issues. Daud Mumin is with Juneteenth Utah based in Salt Lake City. He said the movement is not just about acknowledging issues when they become nationalized. “We're going back and reminding people, ‘Hey, we went through so much last summer. We went through so much pain, so much suffering, so much anger,’” Mumin said. “And we have to keep the pressure going to keep doing this work.” Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Gov. Spencer Cox Implores People To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday 98%of COVID-19 cases since March have been in unvaccinated Utahns, which he said shows that vaccines work. He said he’s been talking with people whose loved ones have recently been hospitalized or died because of the virus. “They didn't have to die,” Cox said. “They don't have to be in the hospital, but they're dead now and they're in the hospital now because they refused to get vaccinated. So please, please get vaccinated” So far, nearly 1.6 million people in Utah have received at least one dose of the vaccine, about 49% of the population. State health officials reported 369 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. — Tess Roundy

Utah Firefighters Gaining Control Over Large Blazes

Firefighters are still battling four large wildfires across Utah, burning almost 30,000 acres combined. The East Canyon Fire in Morgan County is now 90% contained. The other three have reached at least 30% containment. Evacuation orders for the Pack Creek fire just outside of Moab were lifted Thursday for residents of Upper Pack Creek. That fire has destroyed at least three structures. It has cost $5.2 million to fight. The National Weather Service expects critical fire weather through the weekend. Dry thunderstorms are possible throughout the state and new starts can spread rapidly. — Lexi Peery, St. George

UTA Offering Lower Fares For Certain Populations

The Utah Transit Authority is testing out half-price fares for people who have traditionally had challenges accessing public transit. The pilot program will run for six months and is open to riders between the ages of 6 and 18 or older than 65, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes. Folks can apply at rideUTA.com/reducedfare. Once approved, riders will be issued a card that is good for TRAX, FrontRunner, bus and other public transit options, excluding paratransit. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Emergency Rental Relief Program

Since March of this year, Salt Lake County residents have received more than $17 million in rental assistance according to new data from the county. The federal funds are a part of Utah’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program which has reached more than 12,000 people so far. County officials say most of the applicants have been women and a large portion of them have been unemployed for more than three months. The county said there is still plenty of money left in the pot and they encourage people who need help to apply online at rentrelief.utah.gov. — Tess Roundy

Region/Nation

Cooling Homes In The Mountain West

This week, the city of Denver released a plan to get air conditioning into more homes. The announcement comes as an extreme heat wave has enveloped much of the Mountain West, where many homes lack a cooling system. According to federal data, more than 20% of homes in the Mountain West do not use A/C. Grace Rink, with Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency, said times have changed. “People who lived here for a long time can really mark the change in how their summers have felt,” Rink said. The city will use money from its Climate Protection Fund to help certain residents replace gas-powered furnaces and hot water heaters with electric heating and cooling. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau