Dear Business Community,

Last week the Utah Legislature called itself into a Special Session to address issues related to COVID-19. This session was conducted electronically and began Thursday, April 16 at 9:00 am. Legislators met on both Thursday and Friday. The session is convened for 10 days and they can reconvene at any time within those 10 days to consider additional items.

The following bills were considered and sent to the Governor for his signature:

Unemployment Benefits Amendments, SB 3003, sponsored by Senator Ann Millner.

This important bill authorizes the Department of Workforce Services to waive the required one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits. This waiver applies retroactively to January 1, 2020. This is consistent with the requirements of the CARES Act and will allow those applying for unemployment benefits to receive them more quickly.
COVID-19 Health and Economic Response Act, SB 3004, sponsored by Senator Dan Hemmert.

This bill creates the Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission. This Commission will work closely with the Governor’s Economic Response Task Force to determine how we move through the phases described in Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan as we re-engage economic activity. The Commission is responsible for making a recommendation to the governor regarding the state’s response to the COVID-19 emergency by April 22.

Joint Resolution Approving Acceptance of Federal Funds in Response to COVID-19, SJR 301, sponsored by Senator Jerry Stevenson.

This bill accepts the federal funds that have been allocated to the State of Utah for pandemic response efforts.

Additionally, the Legislature passed bills to increase the state’s bonding limit, address budget shortfalls that will result from delaying the state’s income tax deadline, and address budget issues for various state agencies. Also passed was a joint resolution urging state and local government to exercise fiscal responsibility in 2020 and 2021.

The Legislature also addressed several practical issues resulting from the current economic and social distancing circumstances. This includes adjusting state income tax filing deadlines to match the federal government’s (moved from the traditional April 15 due date for paying taxes to July 15) and allowing Utah’s upcoming primary election on June 30 to be held entirely by mail.

In the realm of public education, the Legislature waived end-of-year assessments, employee evaluations, and the required civics test for high school graduation.

Finally, the Legislature passed several bills dealing directly with public health and COVID-19. They increased liability protections for medical providers caring for COVID-19 patients and providers who choose to prescribe off-label or experimental drugs to COVID-19 patients. They made workers’ compensation available to first responders, and expanded the definition to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others who contract COVID-19 while on the job. They also passed a concurrent resolution expressing gratitude for the efforts of individuals and organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Legislature plans to reconvene on Thursday, April 23. We will keep you informed about future policy developments. Please be in touch if you have questions or feedback for us.

All of our best,

Salt Lake Chamber Policy Team