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PM News Brief: Utah labor laws, new Afghan fund & VP Kamala Harris visits Lake Mead

A photo of Lake Mead.
William J. Klos
/
Flickr
Water levels in the nation’s largest reservoir are at an all-time low. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Lake Mead on Monday. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, 2021

State

Utah could lose ability to enforce its own labor laws

Utah could lose some of its independence to enforce labor laws. The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday it’s considering enforcing labor standards in Utah itself. That’s because the state was supposed to adopt standards that were at least as effective as federal rules to protect workers from COVID-19 by the end of July, but it still hasn’t. Arizona and South Carolina are the other two states that have yet to submit their plans as well. The Department of Labor said the next step is to open up a 35-day comment period on revoking the states’ status. — Sonja Hutson 

Utah governor announces new fund to help settle Afghan refugees

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced a new charitable fund Tuesday to support Afghan refugees coming to Utah. The state is expecting to help 765 people over the next few months coming from the middle eastern country. Cox said Utah needs about $1 million to support resettlement efforts that are not covered by federal money. The Afghan Community Fund will help cover food, housing, medical costs and other necessities. So far, it has raised $275,000. — Martha Harris

Northern Utah

Salt Lake community members unsure of mayor’s park ranger proposal

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a proposal Monday to use nearly $4 million in federal funding for a new park ranger program. The money would support 16 rangers at a handful of parks throughout the city. Mendenhall said they’ll be there to provide information to park goers, but their most important job is to address safety issues. That has some community members viewing the proposal as a way to police homelessness. Carl Moore provides outreach to people experiencing homelessness, and he said the parks where the rangers will be are areas where many unsheltered people stay. Read the full story. Emily Means 

Region/Nation

Labor strikes in the Mountain West gaining steam 

Labor strikes are accelerating across the nation and our region is part of this wave. Workers in the Mountain West have launched at least seven strikes in recent months to demand higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions. Some Mountain West economies have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19 — and at the same time, climate change. Some experts say those factors could lead to more worker strikes here in the future. — Robyn Vincent

Vice President Kamala Harris visits Lake Mead amid record low levels

Water levels in the nation’s largest reservoir are at an all-time low. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Lake Mead on Monday. She used the stop to push the administration's infrastructure plan and the Build Back Better agenda as a way to invest in water reuse and the rollout of drought contingency plans. The first-ever mandatory cutbacks for some Colorado River water users go into effect in January, and the latest forecasts for Lake Mead show that more are likely on the way. The river supplies 40 million people with water in the West. — Alex Hager, KUNC

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