COVID-19 Weekly Update and Special Session Recap

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This week at the Capitol we convened in the 2020 Sixth Special Legislative Session to consider pressing legislative issues relevant during this pandemic. We passed a total of 20 bills on Thursday, August 20. You can watch the recording of the session in the Senate here.
Below is a brief recap of a handful of bills we passed this week. You can read more about all of the bills we considered here.

COVID-19 Relief and Adjustments

H.B. 6002, Supplemental Budget Balancing and Coronavirus Relief Appropriations generates savings by eliminating double funding for a training program and rolling-back some salary increases, then uses those savings, plus $11 million in excess health insurance reserves generated by Senate Concurrent Resolution 502 from last Special Session, to restore funding to additional budget hot spots. This bill also completes our third and last round of appropriating the $688 million in Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund money we received under the CARES Act. It funds the following needs, among others:

  • $25 million for broadband internet access in eastern and northern Utah;
  • $15 million for classroom supplies, equipment, and enhancements – including personal protective equipment.  This is in addition to the money schools got directly through CARES;
  • $4 million for additional PPE that in-turn frees-up federal funds for charter school enrollment cost increases;
  • $40 million for additional economic support to our hardest-hit industries, including $7.5 million for arts organizations and $5 million for mining;
  • $3 million for outreach and direct services in multicultural communities;
  • $7 million to provide much needed respite services for those who care for individuals with disabilities on the waiting list;
  • $15 million to add equipment and a night shift at state medical labs to build capacity and improve Coronavirus test turn-around times;
  • $750,000 to add intensive care unit beds, especially in smaller communities.

This bill authorizes $138 million in unemployment benefits plus $1.7 million in administrative costs, to provide an additional $300 per week to Utahns who find themselves out of work due to the pandemic.

Additionally, I was able to get most of the budget cuts to the Bear Lake Regional Commission restored to protect the Lake.

S.B. 6009, Cares Act and COVID-19 Assistance and Recovery Amendments amends seven economic assistance programs the state created earlier this year to extend assistance to targeted individuals and industries more efficiently and effectively. The adjustments are in response to observations of the strengths, weaknesses and popularity of certain programs. The bill makes changes the following programs and, through H.B. 6002, increases and reallocates funding for these programs:

  • Agricultural Operation Grant Program
  • Individual Rental Assistance for COVID-19
  • Commercial Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program
  • Cultural Assistance Grant Program
  • Utah Works Program
  • PPE Support Grant Program
  • Impacted Business Grant Program
  • Oil, Mining and Gas Grant Program

S.B. 6005, Income Tax Amendments provides that certain financial stimulus or relief amounts received by individuals and businesses in Utah in response to COVID-19 are not subject to Utah income tax, including: proceeds from a forgiven loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and similar additional federal programs that may be enacted in 2020; grants or forgiven loans provided by the state, a county, or a municipality using federal funds; and amounts received by individuals as part of an individual recovery rebate in 2020 which applies to both CARES act rebates and any future COVID-related rebate for the 2020 tax year.

S.B. 6007, Amendments to Elections makes temporary changes to the Election Code and related provisions, as they relate to the 2020 regular general election only, to conduct the election in a manner that protects the public health and safety in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and modifies ballot harvesting provisions in relation to all elections. We do plan to offer traditional voting options this November for the general election, including in-person and vote-by-mail options.

H.B. 6001Uniform Electronic Wills Act which I sponsored in the Senate, affirms that a person can finalize a will electronically, using video teleconferencing, without the direct presence of the person making the will or acting as a witness.

Education

H.B. 6012, Public Education Funding and Enrollment Amendments aims to address multiple issues facing schools this fall, direct the use of some federal CARES act funding and provide adjustments to certain state funding programs. The bill allows for flexibility in student accounting for the year, expands online charter school enrollment and capacity, and restores funding for two programs eliminated during the 5th Special Session—the English Learner Language Software program and National Board Certified Teacher salary supplement program.

H.B. 6004, School Emergency Drill Amendments temporarily suspends the requirement for schools to physically conduct emergency drills within the first 30 days of school as many of the drills do not allow for social distancing. This is a temporary adjustment that will be revisited in the spring. Schools are still required to provide in-class instruction on the procedure for emergency evacuation for a fire at least once each calendar month beginning no later than 15 days after the first day of school.

Coronavirus Data

On Monday, August 24, the Utah Department of Health reported 769,530 total COVID-19 tests administered, 49,364 total positive cases, 41,164 estimated recovered cases, 2,941 total hospitalizations, 130 current hospitalizations and 390 total fatalities.

The Bear River Health Department reported the following local data breakdown:

COUNTYCasesHospitalizedRecoveryDeaths
Box Elder43103293
Cache2046618276
Rich11070
TOTALS   2488621639

In the News:

Utah Governor Garry Herbert Will Enact New COVID-19 Emergency Order Thursday Night
Governor Herbert Reissues 7 Executive Orders Amid Pandemic
Utah One of the First States to Apply for and be Approved for the Lost Wages Assistance Program
Masks in Schools: Gov Releases 50 FAQs for Parents, Students, Teachers
ARUP and U of U Health will Offer COVID-19 Saliva Test
Logan Mask Mandate Will Expire, Replaced by Education Resolution

What do you think?

You can connect to me online via Facebook (Senator Lyle W. Hillyard). I can also be reached by email at lhillyard@le.utah.gov or by phone at 435-757-0194.

Senator Lyle Hillyard