As it turns out, state government's four-day workweek was frustrating Utahns who needed drivers' licenses or to license their vehicles. To help remedy that, Gov. Gary Herbert will reinstate a five-day workweek at the South Valley Office of the Utah Tax Commission and the Utah Department of Public Safety, 14555 S. Minuteman Drive in Draper, beginning Feb. 12. Office hours will be 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The rest of state government, except for the state courts, will continue to observe a four-day workweek as established by Herbert's predecessor, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. From a public policy perspective, the four-day workweek has been a mixed bag. It did not realize the energy cost savings that Huntsman had envisioned. He estimated that the change would save the state some $3 million a year in utility costs. The actual savings was closer to $500,000, or a 10 percent drop in energy consumption.
However, the state has saved money on janitorial services, decreased use of the state motor pool and fewer hours of employees working overtime, according to reviews of the practice.
While most affected state employees have enjoyed three-day weekends, it continues to be difficult for some parents to schedule child care. This is a considerable challenge for single parents or those who have children with special needs.
Seemingly, in this difficult economy, Utahns also need more access to the state Department of Workforce Services. The department helps people find employment and administers the federal food stamp program, among other responsibilities.
Utah's jobless rate is 6.5 percent, which is far lower than the national average. Nevertheless, those who are unemployed need assistance finding work.
Meanwhile, the number of people in Utah using food stamp assistance hit 95,000 in November, up sharply from about 60,000 in November 2008.
Nutrition is a basic necessity. Although people can apply for these benefits online, some people do not have Internet access or know how to use computers. Thus, they need personal assistance to determine whether they qualify for these programs and to apply.
As state officials mull how to trim the state budget, the governor and lawmakers will consider many options to cut costs. For the most part, the state's four-day workweek is a workable option. But steps must be taken to ensure that Utahns receive services they need most. Seeking gainful employment and obtaining food stamp assistance would seem obvious choices.