Three Utah health clinics are closing after $2.5 million budget cut

Representative for Utah’s House District 24, Jen Dailey-Provost, Democrat, said she feels blindsided after learning three Utah health clinics would be shutting down because of a $2.5 million cut made earlier in the 2020 session.

“… the $2.5 million cut looks like it’s going to close three of our clinics that serve tens of thousands of our state’s most vulnerable populations who are already at risk of falling through the cracks in our health care system,” she said during a recent State of Reform Q&A interview.

 

 

The cut came after state legislators met in June to tighten the pandemic-strained budget.

Dailey-Provost, a member of Utah’s Social Services Appropriations Committee, said this turn of events came as a surprise, because she was told health care funding wouldn’t be cut.  Early on in the session, legislative leadership tasked all the appropriations committees with suggesting areas of their budgets to make 2%, 5%, and 10% across the board cuts. 

After the budget cutting exercise had been completed, however, executive appropriations and legislative leadership said they would be finding budget cuts elsewhere, keeping the social services budget completely intact. Daily-Provost thought the health centers were in the clear.

“… we celebrated [this] as a huge success. When it came out that the health center’s funding had been cut, I was really blindsided and I’m still trying to figure out where that even came from,” she said.

However, shortly after the health care cut was made, Utah lawmakers are going into a special session August 20 to discuss potentially giving a bankrupt California-based company $20 million.

During a press briefing on August 13 before the special session was officially called, Utah Governor Gary Herbert said the purpose of the special session would be to discuss items that couldn’t wait until the next session.

“I think there are issues they want to address that they want to call themselves into sessions regarding,” he said. “… there are issues we cannot delay till the general session.”

According to the special session agenda, several bills will be discussed including alcohol licensing and permit amendments to H.B. 6006 and school emergency drills amendments to H.B. 6004.

However, the most talked about item around the Utah Legislature not on the agenda is the potential $20 million allocation the state may give to a bankrupt California company.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Senate President Stuart Adams said the purpose of this potential monetary allocation is to preserve and strengthen the financial stability of the state. 

“Utah is taking calculated steps to continue its trajectory toward economic recovery while protecting individuals’ well-being,” Adams told the Tribune.

Several elected officials for the state are concerned about this move because of Utah’s own struggles with supporting its health care clinics.

Another legislator on the Social Services Appropriations Committee, Rep. Suzanne Harris, shared similar concerns as Dailey-Provost about potentially giving a special interest group $20 million when Utah residents need more support. 

“This allocation is going to help a particular corporation that made a bad business decision, and that money was intended to be used for the local community where the extractive industries are in existence,” Harrison said. 

Harrison said that her biggest concern about this allocation is Utah families are the ones needing support during a pandemic, not an organization outside of the state entirely with taxpayer dollars.

“This is another example of how we need to make sure we’re prioritizing the health and economic needs of Utah families, not wishes of special interests,” she said. “We need additional voices in the Utah legislature that will put Utah families first, not special interests first.”

Harrison said if this allocation is approved, it may go toward a deepwater port in Oakland, California.

“On multiple levels I have concerns about this,” she said. “Utah taxpayers deserve accountability.”