Utah State Legislature Conducts Fifth Special Session to Address the COVID-19 Impact

The Utah State Legislature met in a Special Session on June 19, 2020, to continue their discussions of revising the state budget due to the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting reduction in revenue.

The legislature asked the chairs of the Legislative Appropriations Subcommittees to discuss reductions in state government, higher education, public education, and other areas within the budget.  These entities were directed to plan for budgets for the upcoming fiscal year equal to or less than the previous year’s budget.

The legislature indicated they would like to keep reductions at a 2% threshold and the Legislative Appropriations Subcommittees reviewed agency scenarios for 2%, 5%, and 10% budget reductions.  These proposals were submitted to the Executive Appropriations Committee.  Agencies ended up with 1.7% budget cuts.

The Legislature passed the following items during the Special Session:

SB5001 – Budget Balancing and Coronavirus Relief Appropriations Adjustments.  This bill, along with a bill to adjust public education budgets, makes appropriations adjustments to balance the state budget for FY2020 and FY2021, in accordance with revenue estimates that project a decline from February 2020 revenue estimates of ($757 million) ongoing and ($93 million) one-time.

This bill also reversed most new General/Education Fund appropriations from the 2020 General Session.  Reduced based budgets, used reserves, and appropriated money from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, part of the CARES Act.

SCR502 – Concurrent Resolution on Refunding Excess Funds to the State from the State Insurance Risk Pools.  Due to the emergency resulting from COVID-19, this concurrent resolution directs excess reserves be refunded to the state by PEHP.

The legislature also funded the state’s portion of the health insurance increase for state employees.

The current revenue projections will be adjusted by the legislature depending on whether there is an increase or a decrease in revenue.  UPEA will continue to stay vigilant in their commitment to communicate state employee salary and benefit needs to the legislature.

URS and PEHP Report Financial Stability Despite the Current Economic Downtown

The Legislature’s Retirement and Independent Entities (R&EI) Interim Committee held its first virtual meeting on June 22. This committee oversees institutions that include Utah Retirement Systems (URS) and the Public Employees’ Health Plan (PEHP). During this meeting, representatives of these entities summarized their end-of-year reports, shared initial impacts of COVID-19, and offered long-term projections.

Utah has once again greatly benefited from the fiscal responsibility URS – demonstrates year after year. Last year was a successful year for URS participants and the entity’s stakeholders.

Dee Larson, URS general counsel, listed a few record achievements for URS. First, the member account balances (401(k), 457, and Roth and traditional IRAs) reached $6.7 billion. Second, the net increase in all balances was more than $1.08 billion. Third, employee and employer contributions reached $428.6 million. And finally, benefit payments from accounts totaled $376.9 million.

“While 2019 was a good year for the fund, we know that the COVID‐19 pandemic presents challenges in 2020,” Larson said.  “The Retirement Board continues to monitor, analyze, and manage the fund’s investments. We don’t expect, nor do we need, lofty returns year after year. Our fund is built to maximize long‐term returns throughout all types of market cycles, with an emphasis on downside protection.”

URS attributes its strong, well-funded retirement system to the many participating employers and elected officials who share the same long-term goals and remain committed to responsible funding.

On March 30, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order allowing the temporary, limited suspension of some provisions of the Utah Post-retirement Reemployment Restrictions Act during the COVID‐19 state of emergency. This allowed some retirees without a one‐year break in service to be temporarily re‐employed in positions performing critical government functions while continuing to receive their monthly pension benefits. Larson said that seven employees have taken advantage of this so far.

PEHP maintains funding in a “medical risk pool” to cover any unexpected increases in health insurance claims. The PEHP statute limits the amount of reserves that can be in this fund at any given time. In the event the funding risk pool exceeds that cap, PEHP will return the excess to its members in a rebate.

PEHP Executive Director Chet Loftus reported that the impact of COVID-19 on the medical risk pool has been fairly minor. PEHP has been able to give back more than $40 million in excess reserves in the past 30 days, with $30.7 million of that going directly to state employees.

While PEHP has seen a drop in medical and dental claims, pharmaceutical claims initially increased due to concern over the availability of medication during the pandemic.

Loftus informed the committee PEHP will cover any costs associated with testing and treatment of COVID-19. As of April 30, 64 PEHP policyholders have tested positive for Coronavirus, 6 of whom required hospitalization with costs ranging from $6,000 to $192,000.

UPEA will continue to update members through the interim on the Utah Retirement Systems and Public Employee Health Plan. If you have questions on URS or PEHP legislation please reach out to your employee representative.

Take Advantage of Discounted Lagoon Passes for UPEA Members

This year, UPEA is offering Single Day Passports for $55.00that’s $18.00 off. These tickets include admission to all of the Lagoon attractions including Lagoon-A-Beach, Pioneer Village, and live entertainment.

If you’d like to purchase tickets please come to the UPEA office on Tuesdays or Thursdays from 10:00am-2:00pm with cash or a check. Credit cards will not be accepted!

-or-

If you cannot make it to the office, please mail a check for the amount of tickets you’d like to purchase, including a mailing address where you’d like the tickets sent.

Utah Public Employees’ Association
Attn: Angie Mann
1000 W. Bellwood Ln.
Murray, UT. 84123

Once you arrive or your check is received, we will confirm that you are a member of UPEA. If you’re sending someone else to pick up the tickets for you, please let us know! 

IMPORTANT: ALL guests wishing to visit the Park will need to make a reservation for their preferred date and entry time online at https://www.lagoonpark.com/make-reservation/. Once on that screen, they will need to click “Single Day Pass Reservation” and enter in their information. After they have entered in their information, they will need to click on the green “Add Single Day Pass” button and input their Single Day Passport barcode number (located under the barcode on their passport) then click “Complete Reservation”. Guests should receive a confirmation email of their reservation, they will be required to show that and their ticket upon entering the park.

Guest Expectations: All guests will be required to abide by the Guest Expectations when visiting the Park, they can be found at http://www.lagoonpark.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Guest-Expectations-for-Opening-5.22.pdf.

If you have any questions, please call Kendle Zdunich at 801-264-8732 ext. 209.

2020 Candidate Endorsement Tracker

SEAT ENDORSED CANDIDATE
Governor Lt. Governor Spencer Cox
Senate Seats
District 6 Sen. Wayne Harper
House Seats
District 3 Rep. Val Potter
District 29 Matt Gwynn
District 48 Rep. Keven Stratton
District 56 Rep. Kay Christofferson
District 61 Rep. Marsha Judkins
District 66 General Jefferson Burton

UPEA Endorses Spencer Cox for Governor

The Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) is endorsing Lt. Governor Spencer Cox for Governor in the Utah Republican Primary Election.

UPEA is Utah’s largest representative of public employees. Founded in 1959, UPEA has a history of selecting and endorsing political candidates based upon their willingness to work with and support public employees.

In announcing the endorsement, UPEA Executive Director Todd Losser said, “The Utah Public Employees’ Association considered all gubernatorial candidates, and believe that Spencer Cox has demonstrated great dedication and support for public employees. He has been actively engaged in finding innovative ways to increase productivity and quality of life. We look forward to continuing to work with Spencer on issues important to our workforce as governor.”

Jeff Horrocks, Chair of the association’s Citizen Action by Public Employees (CAPE) Committee said, “Spencer Cox demonstrates concern for public employee issues, and considers them a valuable resource and a tremendous asset to the state of Utah.  He understands our issues, and will work with us to find solutions.”

Spencer Cox said he is “honored” that UPEA is backing his candidacy. “Throughout my service in state government I have been so impressed with the quality of public employees and their dedication to those they serve. I appreciate their vote of confidence,” Cox added.

If you would like to personally endorse Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to help him in his election, please visit endorsedbyutah.com.

Stay up-to-date on all public employee-friendly candidates using the CAPE Endorsement Tracker.

Members Share Testimonials to UPEA Grievance Representation

UPEA is a valuable resource when an employee encounters any workplace issues. UPEA staff hopes that their members never experience disciplinary action; however, representatives are available for our members if a workplace issue arises. From written warnings to terminations, UPEA can represent its members throughout the grievance process and utilize their resources to help employees navigate the procedure. UPEA staff is knowledgeable of the DHRM policies to help employees understand their grievance rights, prepare statements and responses, provide physical representation at hearings, and coordinate with our employment attorney at Kirton & McConkie to address legal questions that may arise. All of these services are included in membership in UPEA, no further costs are associated.

Here is what members had to say about their experience with UPEA during the grievance process:

“This was my very first experience, in this area of uncharted waters, being disciplined by my employer.  I was afraid, nervous, concerned, and worried about my employment.  Upon contacting UPEA and meeting with my representative, [she] was able to help me better understand the process that was about to begin.  UPEA was helpful with all of my fears and concerns. BIG THANK YOU to [my representative] and UPEA staff!”
-State Courts employee

“UPEA has been incredible to me. They have supported me and provided guidance through the grievance process, something I’ve never been through. [My representative] listened with an open-mind and worked with me to find a solution. UPEA is considerate of the situation and wants to help you feel comfortable through it all. UPEA has been a tremendous help; I can’t thank them enough. I’m glad I went through this process with UPEA by my side.”
– Department of Human Services employee

All UPEA members have access to grievance representation after six months of membership. If you have any questions or concerns about your employment or you’ve been given a disciplinary action, please don’t hesitate to contact your UPEA representative.