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PM News Brief: Consumer index dips, nighttime wildfires & fighting back against banks

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers
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KUER
Utah’s consumer confidence fell about five points from October to November. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Dec. 1, 2021

State

Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services submits transition plan 

Utah’s Department of Health and Department of Human Services will merge into one agency by July 1 of next year. The state submitted its transition plan to the governor Wednesday for the new Department of Health and Human Services. Part of the task at hand will be to decide how to split up its $5.5 billion budget. The plan will also look at how to set up its organizational structure and best avoid disruptions. The two departments also want to keep all of their employees — together there are more than 5,600. — Caroline Ballard

Utah’s consumer index dips from October to November

Utah’s consumer confidence fell about five points from October to November. But it was still higher than confidence nationwide. That’s based on data released Wednesday by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Utah scored a 76.9. Nationally, confidence last month was about 62. Still, 64% of survey respondents believed during the next year, U.S. businesses would have bad times financially. It also showed nearly 60% of people think now is a bad time to buy major household items — like furniture and appliances. — Ross Terrell

Utah’s financial leaders join fight against banks that are anti-traditional energy 

Utah’s state treasurer and auditor are joining the fight against banks that are boycotting traditional energy industries. The two joined officials from 15 other states Wednesday in sending an open letter to banking industry officials. Those state leaders say they will make it a point to work with institutions that do not have policies to cut financing for the coal, oil and natural gas industries. Both Utah’s treasurer and auditor say traditional energy plays a major role in the state’s economy. They argue those companies should have “unfettered access to capital and lending markets.” — Ross Terrell

Utahns push for more supportive housing options

Utah housing and disability advocates made the case Wednesday for the state to invest more funding into permanent supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing is for people who are chronically homeless. It’s affordable and comes with built-in social services. But State auditors say residents are staying in that situation for too long and taking up space for other people. The audit said Utah officials need to decide whether they want to keep people housed or help them become self-sufficient. Advocates say permanent supportive housing is an important resource in tackling homelessness and caring for people with mental health needs. Read the full story. Emily Means

Region/Nation

More wildfires are burning at night

More wildfires are burning at night in the lower 48. That’s according to a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. Wildfires are usually less intense overnight. That’s because generally temperatures drop, the wind dies down and humidity goes up. But a warming climate is changing those weather patterns. And now, data from heat sensing satellites shows that fires aren’t slowing down as much at night. That’s a safety concern for firefighters since fires burning intensely at night limit their ability to rest and recover. Plus, they face the additional risk of working in the dark. In November, a pilot died at the Kruger Rock Fire in Colorado when his single-engine air tanker crashed during nighttime operations. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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