ST. GEORGE — The state of Utah announced Wednesday that help is on the way for those who have lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic but don’t qualify for unemployment assistance, and for child care centers struggling to stay open through the health crisis.
The announcements were made during the state’s daily coronavirus briefing.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which goes into effect immediately, is designed for those who have lost their job because of the pandemic but would not necessarily qualify for unemployment insurance.
Examples include those who are self-employed, those working in the gig economy, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, or those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have a member of their household that has the virus.
“If your employment has been uninterrupted due to COVID-19, you should apply for unemployment assistance. If you do not qualify, you should apply for pandemic assistance,” Kevin Burt, director of Unemployment Insurance in Utah, said.
The application is available at jobs.utah.gov/covid19. The application is only available online and will take 21 to 30 days for the state to return a message as to whether someone has been approved or denied.
A quick way for people to determine if they should apply for unemployment or pandemic assistance is to enter their social security number at the state’s “Am I Eligible” website. If it says they are not eligible for unemployment, people are encouraged to apply for pandemic assistance if they have lost employment because of the coronavirus.
Benefits will be based on the income the applicant has earned, Burt said.
Additional information on the Pandemic Assistance Program is available at this link.
Help for child care centers
As an essential service, child care centers have remained open through the pandemic. But not all of them have, as the governor’s Child Care Task Force said 38% of licensed centers have closed in the last two months.
Those that have stayed open have been on financial fumes, including the Country Kids Children’s Center in Santa Clara.
“It’s been a struggle for us,” Director of Country Kids Peggy Gubler said.
In response, the state is launching a grant program for both brick-and-mortar and family child care providers that are licensed by the state to stay open through the pandemic and beyond.
“Child care programs have taken a hit,” Tracy Gruber, Office of Child Care director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said. “We are supporting those still open. This will allow them to continue operations to help pay rent, payroll.”
Child care centers have been vital for those who have still needed day-care for their children – especially as a resource for other essential workers who can’t stay home and with schools dismissed.
Child care centers seeking assistance need to fill out the Child Care Operations Grant payment agreement form at this link.
For Gubler at Santa Clara’s Country Kids, she has had to continue with a full staff but only a third of the normal amount of kids at the center. The full staff is still needed due to state regulations, include having only 10 people in a room. This means only nine kids in each room and one supervisor.
“This is costing us as much for our staff as it would if everybody was here,” Gubler said. “We have 140 kids a day normally. Right now, there are 50.”
While the parents and those who care for them have had to worry about how to make ends meet, there is one group that has been weathering the storm well, according to Gubler: the kids.
“Kids are amazingly resilient,” Gubler said. “The first few days were hard, but they have now kind of slipped into routine. Their parents have been so thankful. They say, ‘whatever you can do, stay open.'”
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