Gov. Herbert addresses state response as economy moves toward stabilization

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Thursday’s press conference with state officials involved the launch of a commercial rental assistance program, Governor Gary Herbert stating he believes the economy will move into the low-risk phase soon, commending state’s tracing and testing efforts, and contracts under question.

Commercial Rental Assistance Program

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced a new rental assistance program for small businesses.

Val Hale, GOED’s executive director, said they’re offering COVID-19 financial relief to small businesses like nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors and those that are self-employed.

The grant – which does not have to be paid back – totals $40 million and companies can receive up to $10,000 for rental property relief.

To be eligible for the program, the state says a person must have a business in Utah, on commercial property, it has to be in operation with fewer than 100 employees since Feb. 15th, show at least a 50 percent loss of gross monthly revenue after March 1st, and have not received funds from the COVID-19 Agricultural Operations Grant Program.

“We know this $40-million grant won’t help every Utah business or non-profit, with less than 100 employees, but it should go a long way to help many struggling Utah small businesses – which has been the focus of the Economic Response Task Force (of GOED) since the pandemic began,” Hale said.

Completed applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning Monday at 9 a.m., and are due by Friday, May 15th at 5 p.m. To learn more about the program, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.

Unemployment numbers begin to decrease, Herbert believes economy will move into low-risk phase soon

From March 15th to May 2nd, Governor Gary Herbert said about 147,000 Utahns filed for unemployment benefits. During Thursday’s press conference he said the number of those filing each week is dropping, and he believes it illustrates the strength of Utah’s economy.

Herbert said as the state works toward stabilization and recovery, he’s cautiously optimistic about the future and thinks Utah can have a robust recovery as the state goes into the summer months; saying he hopes to begin moving the state into the yellow, low-risk phase in coming weeks.

While the crisis is not over, he said he likes the trend. And that as the state is in the beginning stages of economic recovery, he expects it to look like a ‘Nike swoosh, rather than a V-shape.’

“You know, we’ve had this down and now we’re going to have this gradual but steady and hopefully robust recovery when we get past the summer months and into recovery mode,” Herbert said.

Herbert addresses headlines that report growing COVID-19 cases, commends tracing and testing efforts

Governor Gary Herbert said he’s aware of headlines that report COVID-19 cases in Utah continue to rise as businesses continue to open, and rebuttals by saying that even though confirmed cases continue to increase day-to-day, he said it’s because of the growing number of tests that are available.

He said at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Utah’s percentage of cases were at five percent, and now, today, they’re at 4.2 percent.

Herbert said the transmission rate is one-to-one, meaning for every person that has it, they will infect one other person – which he said are numbers best suited for recovery and stabilization.

This week, Herbert said he’s received calls from three governors asking how Utah is one of those leading the nation in its coronavirus response, and he said it’s due to our testing and tracing capabilities.

“Our testing now is the fourth highest number of tests administered in the nation,” Herbert said. “Again, that helps us get on top of where this coronavirus is at. Our contact tracing; we determined we know where 82 percent of our cases come from.”

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, Herbert said hospital capacity is up and there’s a surplus of personal protective equipment in stock; but said this does not mean the public should disregard current public health guidelines.

Contracts under question? Herbert says he’s looking into it

As the economy is moving out of urgency and into stabilization, Governor Gary Herbert said state operations are having the same opportunity – by looking into contracts under question.

Herbert said this operation means his office is taking a look at contracts that have come under question as Utah declared a state of emergency, during a time when state officials were making rapid decisions in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

He said while opinions have differed during the state’s response, and while mistakes have been made, he said there’s been a unifying purpose to keep all Utahns healthy and safe.

And while he said this crisis is not over, he and his office are taking the time to reflect on what they can learn and how to continue to be better.

“We’ll cooperate with any legitimate inquiries to evaluate and to learn from the decisions that have been made,” Herbert said. “And hopefully help us moving forward in a correct direction and make sure that we’re doing things to the best of our ability.”

Herbert said there’s still much to learn as the fight against COVID-19 continues, and as the state learns how to better handle potential future situations.

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