These last four months have been a trying time for Utahns across the state. As you know, COVID-19’s impact on the world economy has been devastating, and Utah has not been immune. Utah’s unemployment rate has gone from the lowest ever recorded at 2.3 percent in January and to 8.5 percent in May. Nationally, the rate is much worse, at 14.7 percent in April, but improved to 13.3 percent in May.
When I became governor in 2009, Utah was in the throes of the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Utahns were losing their jobs, homes, and businesses. Through our efforts to come out of the recession, which included fewer and more sensible regulations, living within our means and saving for a rainy day, limited and more efficient government, and respecting free markets and empowering the private sector, Utah became the economic Gold Standard. Utah is a laboratory of democracy that has consistently showcased how a free-market economy can create greater economic opportunity for all.
Utah entered the COVID-19 recession with a strong economic and fiscal foundation, and, because of this, we have the opportunity to recover more quickly than other states. Through combined efforts we brought our state out of the Great Recession and took Utah’s economy to the top. We can and we will do it again. Because that is what we do in Utah. We work together to accomplish what many elsewhere say is too hard to do. It is in our cultural DNA, and is an indelible part of who we are and what is known as “the Utah Way”.
I am especially grateful for our healthcare heroes, who have worked tirelessly to keep Utahns safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. I appreciate our first-responders, who continue to put their lives on the line, even in the face of a global pandemic. And I am grateful to all Utahns who have worked diligently to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and other measures.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to meet with the Multicultural Commission, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission on Human Rights. I appreciate those who shared their own stories. Through their examples, I can now better understand the pain and fear too many in our society feel about the institutions that are supposed to serve and protect. As a state, we can do better. We can ensure everyone has equal opportunities and are not stymied by institutional barriers.
Like many Utahns, I was deeply saddened by the protests that turned into violent riots and resulted in the destruction and defacement of property. Peaceful protest will always have a place in our community, but violent riots are beyond the pale. I am grateful for the support of law enforcement officers from across the state, and for the support of our National Guard, in restoring order to our capital city.
As we work together, we can change systems as well as hearts and minds. I have taken pride in our efforts to encourage diversity and create a welcoming environment. While I think we have made improvements, I know we have a long way to go. As our communities come together, we will be able to embody the servant-spirit of the state of Utah and the “Utah Way” to enact change now, and ensure a better future for the generations that will come after us.
Thank you for your efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We cannot stop until we beat this virus. I encourage you to adhere to the guidelines put in place by local and state authorities, and to wear a mask when in public. Visit coronavirus.utah.gov for more information and updates on the COVID-19 situation in Utah.
It is my honor to serve as the 17th governor of Utah. We will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. I am looking to you to help us do better and demonstrate that Utah is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.