PM News Brief: China Seed Scam, Salt Lake Business Grants & Free Parking Ending | KUER 90.1

PM News Brief: China Seed Scam, Salt Lake Business Grants & Free Parking Ending

Jul 28, 2020

Tuesday evening, July 28, 2020

STATE

Undocumented People Excluded From Pandemic Assistance

A report released Tuesday from two Utah advocacy groups said undocumented people in the state have been excluded from $154 million in emergency assistance during the pandemic. The analysis from Voices For Utah Children and Comunidades Unidas estimates there are at least 79,000 undocumented Utahns, and they haven’t had access to federal or traditional state unemployment benefits. The Utah Department of Workforce Services implemented a rental assistance program for undocumented people, but Maria Montes from Comunidades Unidas said they’re working with cities and nonprofits to create an assistance fund for immigrant communities. Read the full story. — Emily Means

COVID Update

Utah health officials reported 446 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Still, the state’s average for the past week remains in the mid-500s. Officials also announced five more people died due to the disease. All of them were over the age of 65 and either hospitalized or a long-term care facility resident. And while the Hispanic and Latino community is still disproportionately impacted, they no longer account for the most cases. Now, white Utahns make up nearly 40 percent of all COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utahns Come Out Against Federal HEALS Act

Several Utah groups have come out to criticize the federal HEALS Act, which U.S. Senate Republicans introduced Monday. It’s a pandemic stimulus bill, and comes in response to House Democrats’ HEROES Act, which was introduced in May. The bill would send another round of emergency funding to American individuals and families. Utahns Against Hunger said it’s disappointed the act doesn’t further address food insecurity, especially since the weekly $600 in extra pandemic assistance expires this week. And the Utah Health Policy Project said the plan doesn’t provide enough funds for Medicaid coverage. According to the group, nearly 34,000 more Utahns enrolled in Medicaid in recent months, as job losses also often meant losing private insurance. — Caroline Ballard

Did You Just Get A Package Of Random Seeds? 

Utahns who have received seed packages in the mail that they did not order are encouraged to turn those over to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Officials said the materials may introduce invasive plant species, and they will work to identify what the seeds are. According to the Better Business Bureau, the seeds are possibly part of a scam originating in China. But the Bureau says it could be more trouble than just receiving seeds, because it means scammers have at least some of your information. People who can’t get their seeds to the department are asked to kill the seeds by baking them at 200 degrees for 40 minutes and then throwing them away. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

Salt Lake County Expands Grant Program Meant For Small Businesses

Salt Lake County announced Tuesday that it is expanding the criteria for its Small Business Impact Grant Program, which helps businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dina Blaes, who oversees regional development in the county, said all businesses in Salt Lake with fewer than 100 employees, and those that have already received federal funding, can qualify for additional grant money. The county still has about $35 million left of funding, and they’re going to keep applications open until they run out of money, according to Blaes. — Jessica Lowell

Free Parking At Salt Lake City Meters Coming To An End

Free parking at meters in Salt Lake City is about to become a thing of the past. The city suspended enforcement of certain parking regulations in March, as a way to encourage downtown residents to stay home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. But in two weeks, paid parking returns. City officials said it’s an effort to support businesses and ensure customers have somewhere to park. People will have to pay if they park at a meter between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The city will use the next 14 days to warn people of the upcoming change. — Ross Terrell

REGION/NATION

Cell Phone Data Being Used To Track COVID-19 Spread

A Utah-based company called Domo is showing public health agencies in the Mountain West where their COVID-19 transmission risk is coming from. The service uses cell phone location data to identify where counties’ and states’ visitors are coming from, and pairs it with data about how bad the local COVID-19 outbreak is there. Public health officials in Southwest Colorado said the tool has shown that at the moment, the most active people in the area are people normally based in Texas, followed by people usually based in Arizona. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau