Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled the latest iteration of the state’s plan to economically recover from the coronavirus downturn Wednesday, which he says will position Utah to rebound quicker than other states.
The fourth version of the Utah Leads Together plan sets out 100, 250 and 500 day plans for the state to reverse the economic damage from the pandemic during which the state’s unemployment rate has jumped to nearly 10 percent, leaving thousands of Utahns out of work.
“The Covid-19 downturn has been deep, but not nearly as deep as it could have been,” said Herbert during his weekly media briefing. “We have a plan to get us into the safe haven of recovery. We will recover faster and stronger than any other state in the union with this plan.”
In the short term, Utah will focus on getting Utahns who are unemployed back to work. The plan notes that 75 percent of Utah’s unemployment claims are from people who are still attached to a job but have been furloughed.
Herbert says he expects the new unemployment numbers due later this week to show improvement for the state’s job situation.
“I think we’ll have a reduction from the 9.7 percent unemployment rate to some lower number,” said Herbert. “There’s reason for us to be optimistic and hopeful as we move forward.”
The plan also tasks the Department of Workforce Services to work with unemployed Utahns to connect them with approximately 21,000 open jobs in the state. The state will also use $50-60 million in federal coronavirus assistance to provide grants to businesses so that they can encourage consumers to re-engage with the economy.
That encouragement will call on businesses to take a pledge that they are engaging in the best practices to keep their workers and customers safe. Participating businesses will receive signage for their establishments so that consumers will feel more confident patronizing those businesses.
Beyond the short-term 100-day plan, the new blueprint shapes the state’s response for the next 250 and 500 days. Central to that part of the plan is a focus on investment in the state’s infrastructure through up to $2 billion in bonding for transit and other projects.
“We want to put our state’s excellent credit rating to work to invest in our communities. Think about bonding for transit or roads or water projects or transportation infrastructure and other projects that are going to help us meet not just our current economic needs, but also how do we invest in the future growth and prosperity of the state of Utah?” said House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Layton.
The 250-day plan also lays out a plan for the state to invest in short-term training programs for displaced workers as well as bolstering certificate programs at tech colleges and universities.
Farther down the road, the new blueprint for recovery lays out a vision for the future economy of the state more than a year from now.
Herbert said, despite the economic downturn, he was confident that the latest version of the plan will allow the state’s economy to snap back quickly.
“We’re not sitting back waiting. We’re actually in the process of doing and we see the results already with a stronger economy than most states in America today,” he said. “I’m here to promise you we will recover faster and stronger than any state in America if we follow the plans we’ve got outlined for today.”