Good Thursday morning Utah! Thanks for reading “The Rundown”.
📬 Hit me up! I love reading your story ideas, news tips, feedback about this newsletter, and just general thoughts on the news. Send me an email or find me on Twitter @SchottHappens.
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House Republicans terrorized by technology
A tipster tells “The Rundown” that House Republicans navigated a technological nightmare on Wednesday morning as Rep. Nelson Abbott’s Outlook malfunctioned, sending them hundreds of email invitations to the Wednesday House Majority caucus lunch. The electronic calendar items swamped inboxes, arriving at the rate of several per minute, which sent productivity plummeting as inboxes overflowed.
House staff eventually stopped the digital deluge from the Orem Republican’s email before lunchtime.
Here’s what you need to know for Thursday morning
🚨 Democrats and Republicans are headed toward a showdown on raising the debt limit. If they don’t approve an increase in the debt ceiling, it could do massive damage to the economy. [NYT]
💉 Utah lawmakers aren’t sure if they can block a federal vaccine requirement for businesses, but they seem eager to try. [Tribune]
💉 President Joe Biden is asking large companies like Disney and Microsoft to help with the push to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19. [Reuters]
The FDA did not take a stance on booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine, citing a lack of data. [CNBC]
🏥 Rep. Paul Ray said Intermountain Health Care is overstating capacity problems in its ICUs. The Republican lawmaker said some of the difficulties could be blamed on poor business decisions. [Tribune]
Montana’s largest hospital is close to implementing a directive that grants authority to decide who gets life-saving care. [Bloomberg]
🏛 Several U.S. gymnasts testified before Congress about how the FBI botched an investigation into abuse allegations against Larry Nassar. [CNN]
🚙 Regulators say it could take years to solve the pollution problem along the Wasatch Front. [Tribune]
🏛 Utah lawmakers are struggling with a Utah Supreme Court ruling allowing transgender Utahns to list their gender identity on state records. A legislative committee considered how the state should handle gender on birth certificates. [Tribune]
🚰 Ogden is warning residents who use drinking water to water lawns could face criminal penalties. [Tribune]
✈️ Utah will receive 765 Afghan refugees from the first wave of those evacuated from the country after the withdrawal of U.S. forces. [Tribune]
🦠 The rapidly increasing number of kids who COVID-19 is infecting is raising the alarm among officials across the country. The number of coronavirus cases among children rose 240% in July. [CNN]
🚔 The Justice Department banned the use of chokeholds by federal law enforcement officers. [CNN]
👀 Former President Donald Trump is worried this weekend’s rally in Washington, D.C. in support of jailed January 6 rioters is a “set up” designed to embarrass him. [NYT]
🚀 SpaceX launched 4 civilians into orbit. The four amateur astronauts will spend three days orbiting the Earth. [AP]
🦬 A record number of visitors went to Yellowstone National Park in August. [NYT]
🎤 No, someone at the White House didn’t push a “button” to stop President Biden from speaking. [FactCheck]
💵 Shut up and take my money! Taco Bell is testing a monthly taco subscription. The “Taco Lover’s Pass” gives subscribers one taco a day for 30 days. [CNN]
Your turn: What’s going on with Utah’s employment situation?
Earlier this week I asked readers to share their thoughts on why Utah’s unemployment rate hasn’t budged much despite Gov. Spencer Cox’s decision to end enhanced unemployment benefits early.
I got some terrific responses. I’m sharing some of them below. A few have been edited for length.
I have no sympathy for employers and do not believe their crocodile tears regarding not finding employees. I got laid off 18 months ago due to COVID-19. I have 2 Masters degrees and have sent out 100s of resumes for jobs that fit my experience like a glove. All I get back (if I get any response at all) is that I did not make the cut. And I am not an isolated case. I personally know several others who are having the same experience. The “labor shortage” is a myth! — Reed Coombs
Utah had more jobs than people before the pandemic according to the SLC Chamber. This is true for several states.
In the past 18 months, 660k people have died putting a strain on an already tight labor market. Additionally, there are more jobs available than there were before the pandemic. Restaurants, Healthcare, etc need MORE workers. This isn’t an issue of people coasting on unemployment benefits and it never was. By ending the benefits early (before the federal government), Utah and other states just continued to hurt the most vulnerable people in our communities. — Megan Daigneau
I believe that a lot of employees that were out of work during the COVID pandemic took the time to improve their education and skill sets to get better jobs that were not affected by the work interruptions.
I also believe that some workers, seeing the Utah GOP push through laws shielding companies from COVID-related lawsuits, elected to stay safe until the situation improves. Why risk your health for a low-paying job where you are underappreciated? If I enter a business and I see that they are not taking care of their employees, I take my money elsewhere. — Carl Stark
Boomers are retiring at a faster rate than they can be replaced. More home healthcare services are required, greater demand for food delivery and other unskilled workers.
Retirees are staying retired. Since Covid is not under control, many Utahns of retirement age are taking retirement early, or are not picking up post-retirement jobs like we did in the past. Two friends of mine in their early seventies who regularly barkered samples at Costco do not work. Likewise, I will not be playing Santa, scorekeeping, or doing other high school sports vending because of COVID is still out of control. The Covid stimulus checks helped us make these decisions.
Healthcare industry burnout: No longer willing to work in hospitals, many skilled nurses are looking at other opportunities as there is high demand for both rural and urban home nurses. — Fred Bonyea
I never expected expanded unemployment benefits being the reason people were not working. Shortly after I moved back to Utah in 2014, I was listening to a presentation by a state economist (I wish I remembered her name). She shared something I thought was fascinating and I think we are seeing it play out now.
Even back in those years, Utah had a low unemployment rate, but our wages were not going up-- which isn’t normal. She believed from the data patterns that Utah has a “hidden” workforce (not your typical hidden workforce by definition). The idea shared was that we have a large group of people who are not regularly looking for work, but will take a job if it interests them and maybe add a little extra money to household income (i.e. stay-at-home-parent with kids in school most of the day, recent empty-nester parent, or retirees). With this group creeping in and out of the workforce, jobs were still being filled so the wages didn’t need to increase with such a low unemployment rate. Many in this group were not using the income to support a whole household, just additional income, so they didn’t have to worry about “living wages” and could take jobs less than living wages.
Think about who became more “stuck” at home because of the pandemic--- kids were at home or could be sent home at any time during school hours; people over 65 are at higher risk for COVID’s dangerous outcomes. etc;. These “hidden workers” do not need to work OR are not able to go back to work until the pandemic is truly in the rearview mirror. I believe it will be a while before this group feels life has settled enough to be tempted to go back into the workforce. — Jen Nibley
Thank you for the thoughtful responses. If you have a suggestion for a discussion topic that we could use in a future newsletter, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday’s Utah news roundup
Moab records detail ‘domestic problem’ reported before Gabby Petito’s disappearance. [Tribune]
Utah’s parole board didn’t increase compassionate releases during the pandemic. [Tribune]
Take a tour of the historical homes in Salt Lake City’s earliest suburb. [Tribune]
Lost lamb at the University of Utah gains fame as the ‘Ewe of U.’ as it evades animal control. [Tribune]
Hip hop stars Drake, Killer Mike and others join Utah man to ask for cannabis pardons. [Fox 13]
11 more Utahns die of COVID-19, and nearly 1,900 more contract the virus. [Tribune]
Here’s how many more kids tested positive for COVID-19 after Test to Stay at two Utah schools. [Tribune]
Utah man, waiting for a kidney transplant, faces a delay because COVID-19 cases are filling hospitals. [Tribune]
High-profile murder victims’ family urges Utah legislature to abolish the death penalty. [Fox 13]
The ‘Devious Lick’ TikTok challenge that’s provoking thefts, vandalism at schools nationwide has hit Utah. [Deseret News]
Church of Jesus Christ will pay $250M into fund for Boy Scout sexual abuse claims. [Deseret News]
In the opinion pages
Justin Stapley: Voting should be the culmination of civic engagement. [Tribune]
— The Tribune’s Jordan Miller contributed to this report.