Poverty

2020 Election Issues Guide

Health Equity 2 for reportAmerican psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner formulated the Ecological Systems Theory to explain how the inherent qualities of children and their environments interact to influence how they grow and develop.

As Utah grapples with the effects of the coronavirus and COVID-19, this election year challenges us all to think bigger, broader, and longer-term. What lessons must we learn from the public health emergency? What has worked and has not in the actions already taken by state and local authorities? What weaknesses in Utah's economic and social structures were exposed by the pandemic that demand increased attention by Utah's next governor and legislators? What challenges can we now see that we should have addressed years ago to improve our resilience and ability to adapt to emergency circumstances? 

While it is certainly true that the direct health effects of the coronavirus impact older adults the most, it is Utah's children who may bear the most lasting scars. Unable to attend school in person, relying on their parents or guardians to be their "home teachers" in a new sense, we already know that tens of thousands of Utah's children will fall behind in ways that will be difficult to make up. The decisions that our new governor and legislators make in the years to come will determine whether and how much our social and economic gaps expand as a result. 

The public offices on the ballot in November include:

  • Governor and Lt. Governor
  • Half of the State Senate
  • The entire Utah House of Representatives

Our elected officials play a central role in determining whether all Utah's children have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Will they have access to healthcare and education? Will their families enjoy the economic stability they need to thrive? These are all questions that will be answered by Utah's next governor and legislature.

Voices for Utah Children is providing this Election Issues Guide so that candidates for elected office can better understand the challenges facing Utah's children. We are also seeking to encourage public awareness and dialogue about the needs of children during this year's campaigns so that our new governor and legislature will begin their terms of office prepared to enact effective policies to protect their youngest constituents. 

We have divided this Election Issues Guide into five sections:

Kids Count

Health

Juvenile Justice

Early Childhood

Tax & Budget/Economic Performance

The Election Issues Guide can also be downloaded as a pdf15-page pdf at this link for easier printing. 

Kids Count

Supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, our KIDS COUNT® work aims to provide Utah’s legislators, public officials and child advocates with reliable data, policy recommendations and other tools needed to advance the kinds of sound policies that benefit children and families across the state.

In 2019, Utah held on to its ranking among the top ten in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT® Data Book report, coming in at 7th highest in the nation. We especially shined in the subcategory of "Family and Community," where we ranked #1 thanks to our highest-in-the-nation share of two-parent families and low share of children growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods. We also ranked 4th highest in the subcategory of "Economic Well-Being" thanks to our relatively low share of children in poverty.  

But we failed to make the top ten in the other two subcategories in the KIDS COUNT® rankings, due to the fact that public policy has fallen short in precisely those two areas: education and health care. We barely outperformed the nation for high school graduation (and fell behind after adjusting for demographics). And we fell behind in the share of children with health insurance, especially among Utah's Latino children, who suffer from the highest uninsured rate in the nation. 

All the KIDS COUNT® ranking details are viewable on the chart and links below. 

Terry Haven Terry Haven 300
Deputy Director
Voices for Utah Children

 

More Information:

Our Kids Count Homepage

2019 Kids Count Data Book

Measures of Well-Being in Utah, 2019

Talking Kids Tour 2019 - A Supplement to the 2019 Utah KIDS COUNT Data Book

2019KC UT 1pager

Health

Every Utah child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter where their family comes from or where they live in our state. No family should be denied care or afraid to seek the care they need. We must ensure that all Utah parents and kids have affordable health coverage and care. That is why Voices for Utah Children spearheads the 100% Kids Coverage Campaign, so that all children in Utah have insurance. Together we can promote healthy communities where all Utah families thrive.

All Utah children, families, and communities should have access to:

  • Webpage HC graphicPre-natal care and insurance, including mental health support for caregivers;
  • Continuous, comprehensive health coverage and care for all Utah kids;
  • Healthy communities and environments, including access to healthy food, clean drinking water and clean air.

To learn more about the 100% Kids Coverage Campaign visit: https://utahchildren.org/issues/100-kids-covered

Contact Jessie Mandle or Ciriac Alvarez Valle

Jessie   Ciriac

More Information:

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for Families’ Access to Health Care?

New Report Finds Number of Uninsured Latino Children in Utah on the Rise

Legislature funds 12-month continuous eligibility for children on Medicaid age 0-5 to address our 44th place kids coverage ranking

Voices for Utah Children Opposes New Trump Administration Medicaid Block Grant Guidance

Voices for Utah Children opposes Trump Administration Public Charge Rule

Voices for Utah Children celebrates Utah Medicaid Expansion

Juvenile Justice

Voices for Utah Children believes in a youth-centered juvenile justice system that meets the needs of the children involved in it, while producing positive outcomes for Utah families and protecting community safety. We are committed to the belief that children should be nurtured, educated and given an equitable chance at success in life. That means allowing young people to make mistakes, learn from them, develop accountability to themselves and their communities, and work through their own unique challenges as they prepare for their lives as adults.

Voices for Utah Children advocates for juvenile justice system that is fair, effective and equitable.  Such a system creates positive outcomes for different children, using evidence-based and culturally-competent programs, that meets the needs of children from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, physical and mental abilities, religious paths and belief systems, and sexual orientations and gender identities. We'll know that Utah has a fair, effective and equitable system when the youth themselves, their families and their communities, believe that the system is working in their best interest. In addition, we will see existing disparities between children of different races - in terms of contact with the system, the seriousness of dispositions, and the barriers to exiting the system quickly - disappear. 

While we actively engage in policy analysis and advocacy directed at the policymakers who are able to remore structural barriers to youth success, we also work to empower advocates and community members alike, arming people with information that allows them to advocate for the young people in their lives who may be system-involved or at risk for system involvement. 

More Information:

April 6, 2020 COVID-19 Update on Utah's Juvenile Justice System in: English, Spanish

April 27, 2020 COVID-19 Update on Utah's Juvenle Justice System in: English, Spanish (Part 1 & Part 2)

Good News for Juvenile Justice Reformers, from the 2019 Legislative Session 

Report: Utah children face barriers to accessing defense attorneys 

Let's End Racial Disparities in Utah's Juvenile Justice System 

Anna Thomas, MPA
Senior Policy Analyst
Voices for Utah Children

Early Childhood

The early years in a child’s life are critically important in terms of social, emotional and cognitive development. All children deserve to start their lives with a real chance to succeed and be happy later in life, but not all children have access to the things that set them up for that kind of future. We believe that when the wellbeing of young children is at the center of public policy and community investment, our entire state does better.

That is why Voices for Utah Children focuses on promoting targeted investments in early childhood care and education, structured to meet the unique needs (and build on the unique strengths) of Utah's many diverse communities. We believe it is possible to build an early childhood system in Utah that supports families with young children by making sure they have access to affordable and appropriate options for their children’s early care and learning—whether children spend their days at home, in formal child care, at public school, or in the care of trusted family and friends. 

Anna Thomas, MPA
Senior Policy Analyst
Voices for Utah Children

 More Information:

There’s No “Re-Opening” Utah Without More Child Care

National Orgs Call for Emergency Child Care Sector Relief

Three Things Utah Can Do to Ensure Right-Sized Access to Full-Day Kindergarten

Kinship Care Families Need Our Support

Tax & Budget/Economic Performance

InvestmentInChildrenAndEconomicGrowth website

Tax and Budget: Every year, Utah's taxes (income, sales, gas, and property taxes) generate revenues that government then expends in ways that profoundly affect families and communities. The fiscal choices Utah makes — such as whether to invest in Utah's future or give in to the temptation to cut taxes below their current overall low level — will make a critical difference in the lives of the next generation of Utahns. If we make the best choices, we can help foster opportunity for all our children and lay the foundations for Utah's future growth and prosperity.

Last year the Utah State Tax Commission and the Utah Foundation both published research showing that taxes in Utah are the lowest that they have been in 30-50 years, following repeated rounds of tax cutting. Tax cutting is undoubtedly popular, especially in election years, but is it always wise? At some point we need to ask ourselves a difficult question: Is the current generation of Utahns doing our part, as earlier generations did, to set aside sufficient resources every year to invest in our children, in our future, in the foundations of tomorrow’s prosperity and quality of life? And more immediately and specifically, given the Coronavirus Recession's expected impacts on the Utah state budget, should we reconsider the 2018 election-year decision to reduce our income tax rate from 5% to 4.95%, a $50 million tax cut that mostly benefitted high-income households? 

Voices for Utah Children's fiscal policy program works to ensure that we invest sufficient resources to ensure that our kids get world-class education and health care as well as special support for children most in need.

At the same time, we also work to ensure that public revenues are generated in ways that are fair. No family should be taxed into poverty as the price of educating their children. Currently, while we've moved in a better direction over the past 25 years, Utah does tax about 100,000 families into or deeper into poverty every year. In addition, the lowest-income Utahns pay a higher overall tax rate (7.5%) than those with the highest incomes (who pay 6.7% of their incomes in state and local taxes). That's one of the reasons why Voices for Utah Children supports making Utah the 30th state in the nation with our own Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), starting with Utahns working their way out of intergenerational poverty. 

Economic Performance: Voices for Utah Children examines and reports on Utah's economic performance from the perspective of how low- and moderate-income Utahns experience the economy -- some examples appear in the links below.  

Matthew Weinstein, MPP Matthew Weinstein
State Priorities Partnership Director
Voices for Utah Children

 virtuous cycle website

More Information:

Why Utah Should Invest In Our Future, Not Tax Cuts

Voices for Utah Children's Assessment of the Positive and Negative Aspects of the December 2019 Tax Restructuring Effort

Why Should Utah Become the 30th State with Our Own Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The History of Tax Incidence in Utah 1995-2018   

Inequality in Utah Compared to Other States and the Nation

Utah Working Families Economic Performance Benchmarking Project: Utah vs. Idaho


 

Published in News & Blog

Last night, December 12, 2019, the Utah Legislature passed a tax restructuring package in a special legislative session.

Voices for Utah Children was very involved in this process over the course of the year. We attended the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force (TRETF) hearings, generated public comment, released our position paper in September, and later that month participated in a poverty advocates' coalition letter signed by 27 non-profits that work with and advocate for lower-income Utahns. We published two op-eds on September 14 and November 26 as well as numerous blog and Facebook posts and tweets. We also worked directly with Task Force members to evaluate and shape the Task Force proposals.

From the start, we focused on two questions:

  1. Does the tax proposal reduce the regressivity in Utah's tax system so that we are taxing fewer Utah families into - or deeper into - poverty?  Currently, Utah's overall tax system is regressive, in the sense that lower- and middle-income Utahns pay a higher overall tax rate than upper-income Utahns.
  2. Does the tax proposal enable Utah to invest more in the long run in Utah's children -- their education, their health, their future prospects to become productive members of their communities and of our state? The State Tax Commission and the Utah Foundation have both published research this year documenting that our overall level of taxation stands at a multi-decade low, raising the question of whether the current generation of Utahns is doing our part, as earlier generations did, to set aside sufficient resources every year to invest in our children. As the poverty advocates' coalition letter detailed, our decades of tax cutting have left Utah with billions of dollars in urgent unmet needs in numerous areas.

So how did the final bill passed last night stack up according to these criteria?

Will it reduce regressivity?

While the idea of bringing back the full sales tax on food was not a part of our proposals, and in fact we proposed eliminating the sales tax on food entirely, our analysis of the near-final version of the bill found that, overall, it will reduce the impact of Utah's taxes for lower-income Utahns from 7.5% of their incomes to 7%, or by about $100 per year, IF they file for the new Grocery Tax Credit (GTC).

The Legislature’s analysts estimate that 30,000-50,000 low-income Utah households do not file taxes every year, because their incomes fall below the mandatory minimum.  Thus, in order to maximize the number of households who file for the credit, Voices for Utah Children proposed, fought hard for, and, on the final day, won inclusion in the package of $500,000 to market the new tax credit to its target population. We also recommended that the bill be amended to add an automatic inflation adjustment for the GTC so that it would not lose its value over time, but that was not included in the bill.

Grocery Tax Credits have considerable drawbacks (mainly that they require the filing of paperwork to obtain them) and vary greatly among the half-dozen states that have them. But the one passed last night will likely be the most generous and accessible one in the nation for lower-income households, based on the amount of the credit, its eligibility rules, and the commitment to invest substantial resources to publicize it.

The bill also makes Utah the 30th state with our own Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), amounting to 10% of the federal credit and fully refundable, aimed at the 25,000 working families in Utah's intergenerational poverty (IGP) cohort. The inclusion of this provision – which was pulled from the bill for several very tense hours Thursday afternoon – is a credit to the persistence of Rep. Robert Spendlove, the sponsor of HB 103, chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, and member of the TRETF.  This is something that many Utahns have sought for decades, and Voices for Utah Children is grateful to the dozens of partnering organizations that have advocated for it alongside us in recent years.

Will it invest more in children?

Unfortunately, the answer here is no. The Governor and Legislature gave in to the election-year temptation to boast about a big tax cut. The bill reduces income taxes by over $600 million and replaces less than $500 million of that revenue with new sales taxes, leaving the state with $160 million less revenue every year going forward to invest in Utah's children.

Voices for Utah Children had strongly advised against using the state's current temporary fiscal surplus to permanently reduce revenues. We see this as a missed opportunity to act now for the state's long-term future, especially given that the shift from income taxes to sales taxes brings in tens of millions of new dollars from non-Utahns, which would have made it possible to offer an in-state tax cut while enhancing revenues or at least holding them steady.  

Moreover, the shift from the faster-growing income tax to the slower-growing gas and grocery sales tax raises the question of whether public revenues will keep up with our fast-growing economy and population in the years to come, a point noted by Rep. Tim Quinn at the final TRETF meeting this past Monday. On the positive side, the bill does expand the sales tax base to some services and closes some outdated sales tax exemptions, which are small but important steps in the right direction.  

It is also noteworthy that, because of the income tax rate reduction from 4.95% to 4.66%, about half of the overall net in-state tax cut of about $200 million annually goes to the top quintile of Utahns, those making over about $120,000 per year, and most of that half goes to the top 1% of Utah households, those earning over about $590,000. 

As detailed in the poverty advocates’ coalition letter, our state suffers from chronic revenue shortages in numerous areas due to our decades of tax cutting, and these shortages disproportionately impact lower-income households. They also keep Utah from getting out ahead of our next-generation challenges, such as closing the majority-minority gaps that are worsening over time, even as our non-white communities are growing and becoming a more integral part of every region of Utah. 

Thus, it is clear that a major challenge remains before Voices for Utah Children and other advocates in the years to come to make the case to the public and policymakers that it is worth investing more in our children, not less.  

Published in News & Blog

Utah Poverty Advocates Call for Fairer Taxes and Restoration of Public Revenues

Salt Lake City - Today (September 26, 2019) at the Utah State Capitol, a group of two dozen non-profit organizations that provide services to and advocate on behalf of Utah's low- and moderate-income population released a letter to the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force. The letter calls on the Task Force to consider the impact on low-income Utahns as they consider tax changes that could, in the worst case scenario, make Utah's tax structure more regressive and less able to generate the revenues needed to make critically important investments in education, public health, infrastructure, poverty prevention, and other foundations of Utah's future prosperity and success. 

The text of the letter and the list of signatories appears below (and is accessible as pdfa pdf at this link): 

 Open Letter to the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force (TRETF)

Tax Reforms for Low- and Moderate-Income Utahns

September 2019

Dear Senators, Representatives, and Other Members of the TRETF:

We, the undersigned organizations that work with and advocate for low- and moderate-income Utahns, urge you to consider the impact on the most vulnerable Utahns of any tax policy changes that you propose this year.  

We urge you to address the two major challenges facing our tax structure as it impacts lower-income Utahns:

1)     Utah’s current system of taxation is regressive, in the sense that it requires lower-income Utahns to pay a higher share of their incomes to state and local government than it asks of the highest-income Utahns, even though about 100,000 lower-income Utah households are forced into – or deeper into – poverty by their tax burden every year. 

           ITEP Utah WhoPays graphic

This regressivity could be addressed with tax policy changes including the following: 

  1. A Utah Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to allow the working poor to keep more of what they earn.
  2. Remove the sales tax entirely from food, as 34 other states have done.
  3. Remove the state income tax on Social Security benefits for low- and moderate-income seniors; Utah is one of only 13 states that tax these benefits.
  4. Restore the income tax rate to 5% or increase it above that level. (Because the majority of all Utah income is earned by the top quintile of taxpayers, and because the Utah income tax more closely matches Utah’s income distribution than any other tax, most of such an income tax rate increase would be paid by the top-earning 20% of Utahns, while most lower-income Utahns are shielded from income tax rate increases.) 
  5. Disclose and evaluate the effectiveness of tax expenditures (revenue lost to the taxing system because of tax deductions, exemptions, credits, and exclusions); Utah’s lack of transparency in this area of taxation earned us a C grade from the Volcker Alliance, a leading evaluator of state budgetary practices founded by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. 

 

2)     For decades, Utah’s overall level of taxation relative to the state’s economy has been dropping, as illustrated in the chart below from the Utah State Tax Commission:

USTC Tax Burden chart

The unfortunate result is that we are left with a tax structure that fails to generate sufficient revenues to allow our state and local governmental entities to properly meet their responsibilities and fulfill their appropriate role in a number of critical areas, including the following:

  1. Education: Utah ranks last nationally for our per-pupil investment in K-12 education. Particular areas of weakness include:
    •  · Teacher turnover rates are higher than the national average. One study found the majority of new teachers leave within seven years.
    •  · Pre-K: Utah ranks 36th for our percent of lower-income 3- and 4-year-olds attending pre-school, private or public. We are also 1 of only 7 states not to have statewide public preschool programs. (The state offers only small-scale programs in a limited number of local school districts.) Yet we know from multiple research sources that every dollar invested in high-quality day care and preschools produces at least a $7 return on that investment in future years. 
    •  · Kindergarten: Only a third of Utah kids participate in full-day kindergarten, less than half the national average, because local school districts can’t afford to offer it. Voices for Utah Children estimates that it would cost at least $75 million to offer full-day K to all Utah kids (not including potential capital costs). 
    •  · According to the January 2019 report of the Utah Afterschool Network, the need for after-school programs exceeds the supply many times over, leaving tens of thousands of children completely unsupervised, meaning they are less likely to do their homework and more likely to engage in unsafe activities.

In addition to these input measures, Utah is also lagging behind in terms of several significant educational outcome measures:

    •  · Our high school graduation rates are lower than national averages for nearly every racial and ethnic category, including our two largest, Whites and Latinos.
    •  · Among Millennials (ages 25-34), our percent of college graduates (BA/BS or higher) lags behind national trends overall and among women.

Moreover, Utah is in the midst of a demographic transformation that is enriching our state immeasurably but also resulting in majority-minority gaps at a scale that is unprecedented in our history. For example, in our education system:

    •  · Our gap between White and Latino high school graduation rates is larger than the national gap. 
    •  · Education Week recently reported that Utah ranks in the worst 10 states for our growing educational achievement gap between haves and have-nots.
    •  · We are beginning to see concentrations of minority poverty that threaten to give rise to the type of segregation and socio-economic isolation that are common in other parts of the country but that Utah has largely avoided until now.

B. Infrastructure: Utah’s investment has fallen behind by billions of dollars. This is another area where the Volcker Alliance ranked Utah in the worst nine states for failing to track and disclose to the public the dollar value of deferred infrastructure replacement costs. In addition. Internet infrastructure is lacking in some rural counties, limiting their integration into Utah’s fast-growing economy.

C. Mental Health and Drug Treatment: Utah was recently ranked last in the nation for our inability to meet the mental health needs of our communities, according to a recent report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Underfunding of drug treatment and mental health services costs taxpayers more in the long run as prison recidivism rates rise because the needed services are not available. Estimates are that Utah meets only 15% of the need for these vital, life-saving services. 

 D. Affordable housing units fall 41,266 units short of meeting the need for the 64,797 households earning less than $24,600, yet the annual $2.2 million state allocation to the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund has not changed in over two decades, despite inflation of over 60%. Among extremely low-income renter households, 71% pay more than 50% of their income for housing, which is considered a severe housing burden. This year, the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund used up most of its annual $14 million budget at its very first meeting of the fiscal year (made up of both state and federal funds). 

E. Health care: Our rates of uninsured children are higher than national averages – and rising – especially among the one-in-six of our children who are Latino. In Utah 35,000 or 5% of White children are uninsured (national rank = 36th place), compared to 31,000 or 18% of Latino children (rank = 46th = last place in 2017). 

 F. Disability services: The 2018 annual report from the Utah Department of Human Services’ Division of Services for People with Disabilities reports that the wait list for disability services grew to a record level of 3,000 individuals last year and that the average time on the wait list is 5.7 years. 

 G. Seniors: The official poverty measure undercounts senior poverty because it does not consider the impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses. A 2018 study found that seniors spent $5,503 per person on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2013, making up 41% of their Social Security income. (For most seniors, Social Security is the majority of their income, and it makes up 90% or more of income for 21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried seniors.)  

 H. Domestic Violence: Although Utah's overall homicide rate is significantly lower than the national average, domestic-violence-related homicides constitute over 40% of Utah's adult homicides compared to 30% nationally. Several thousand women continue to be turned away annually from crisis shelters because of lack of capacity. Additional state funding would make it possible to substantially increase the capacity of overburdened crisis shelters. We are one of the few states without domestic violence services in every county.

Given the large number of urgent needs that are not being met because of our chronic shortage of public revenues, we are concerned that Utah is missing the opportunity to make critically important upfront investments now that would allow us to reap substantial rewards in the future, and that our most vulnerable neighbors will pay the greatest price as a result.

Thus, we urge you to consider the ways that the state tax structure impacts single parents, disabled adults, low-income children, seniors on fixed incomes, and other vulnerable population groups as you decide on your tax restructuring and equalization proposals.

 Finally, thank you for all the time and effort you are personally investing as volunteer members of this important Task Force, and for all that you do for our state through this and other forms of public service. 

Yours truly,   

American Academy of Pediatrics Utah Chap.

Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City

Coalition of Religious Communities

Community Action Program of Utah

Community Development Finance Alliance

Community Rebuild

Comunidades Unidas

Crossroads Urban Center

Epicenter

First Step House

League of Women Voters Utah

Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities

ICAST

Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah

Moab Area Hsg Task Force

Provo Housing Authority

RESULTS Utah

Rocky Mountain CRC

Self-Help Homes, Provo, UT

Utah Citizens’ Counsel

Utah Coalition of Manufactured Homeowners

Utah Community Action

Utah Food Bank

Utah Housing Coalition

Utahns Against Hunger

Voices for Utah Children

Published in Press Releases

The 2018 Legislative Session is over. Voices for Utah Children worked tirelessly to advocate for Utah’s children and families, and we had some great wins and some painful losses. Nonetheless, Utah children and families are in a better place now than they were in January.

Health

WIN: HB12 Family Planning Services Amendments (Rep. Ward)

  • This legislation was championed by a number of Voices allies (YWCA, Utah Women’s Coalition, ACLU, and Planned Parenthood) to provide family planning services to low-income individuals through Medicaid

WIN: HB325 Primary Care Network Amendments (Rep. Eliason)

  • This bill will direct the Department of Health to get a waiver to expand current PCN services for adults receiving coverage from the state. 

DEFEATED: SB48 Medicaid Waiting Period Amendments (Sen. Christensen)

  • This legislation would have re-imposed a five-year waiting period on legal immigrant children before they could enroll in health coverage. Our advocacy work helped ensure this bill never got heard

DEFEATED: SB 172 Medicaid Waiver (Sen. Hemmert)

  • This bill would have done away with Medicaid’s children’s health benefit and EPSDT. This would have caused 2,600 parents and former foster youth to lose their health coverage. Voices  defeated it in the House Health and Human Services Committee and again in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

LOSS: Keeping Kids Covered – 12-month continuous eligibility on Medicaid

  • Rep. Ward appropriation requested wasn’t prioritized high enough to receive funding this year.

LOSS: Dental hygiene check-ups for kids in public education settings

  • Dental Code for use by dental professionals providing hygiene check-ups for kids in public education settings - did not get prioritized high enough to be funded for this year - but we’ve strengthened our relationship with a huge association of highly motivated dental hygienists!  

LOSS: HB472 Medicaid Expansion Revisions (Rep. Spendlove)

  • HB472 seeks a waiver, that is highly unlikely Utah will receive from the Trump Administration. This waiver would provide Medicaid benefits to eligible individuals below 95% of the federal poverty level.

The Utah Decides Ballot Initiative is now our last hope to get Medicaid expansion done in 2018.

Early Childhood 

LOSS - HB319 Early Care and Learning Coordination Amendments (Rep. Chavez-Houck)

  • A priority bill to form an Early Childhood Commission for better governance and coordination among agencies offering services to Utah’s youngest kids (0 to 5).

WIN - HB380 Utah School Readiness Initiative Amendments – (Rep. Last)

  • With a close collaboration with United Way of Salt Lake, this bill will continue the school readiness program, Pay-for-Success. Since 2014 this has provided thousands of at-risk kids in Salt Lake county with high-quality pre-school.

WIN - SCR11 Concurrent Resolution on Awareness and Treatment of Maternal Depression and Anxiety (Sen. Zehnder)

  • With the efforts of the Maternal Mental Health Coalition, this resolution energized and inspired story-sharing and education on maternal mental health.

WIN: SB161 Nurse Home Visiting Pay-for-Success Program (Sen. Escamilla)

  • This legislation will fully fund the Nurse Family Partnership by putting it forward as a Pay-for-Success Program.

Juvenile Justice

WIN: HR1 House Resolution Urging Restorative Justice in Utah’s Education System – (Rep. Sandra Hollins)

  • Resolution to encourage the use of restorative justice practices in Utah schools

NOT A WIN BUT NOT A LOSS: HB132  Juvenile Justice Modifications (Rep. Snow)

  • Updates to last year’s big juvenile justice reform effort - we fought hard with our allies (ACLU, Libertas Institute, YWCA, Racially Just Utah) to keep the changes to a minimum. This bill gives school a limited amount of time to update their programs to comply with HB239 from 2017.

WIN: SB198 – Public School Disciplinary Action Amendments (Sen. Anderegg)

  • This legislation requires the Board of Education to produce an annual report looking at law enforcement and disciplinary action in schools. This data will be helpful as we work to reduce racial disparities in school discipline and work to build a system that produces better outcomes for all kids.

Tax and Budget

NOT QUITE A WIN BUT OH SO CLOSE: HB57 Utah Intergenerational Poverty Work and Self-sufficiency Tax Credit (Rep. Westwood/Sen. Vickers)

  • This bill would have created a $6 million Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 25,000 working families identified as being in the Intergenerational Poverty (IGP) cohort by the state Department of Workforce Services. These families, which pay tens of millions of dollars in state and local taxes every year, would have been able to keep more of what they earn with a tax credit averaging $240 (and up to $600 maximum). This legislation received unanimous support in both House and Senate committees, passed the House, and received a 22-4 vote on 2nd reading in the Senate. But on the final day of the session, leadership decided to leave it out of the final tax package.

NOT QUITE A WIN BUT COULD HAVE BEEN A LOSS --SCHOOL FUNDING

  • The most notable fiscal outcome of the 2018 Legislative Session was a deal between legislative leadership and education funding advocates. The compromise deal included two big choices:
    • Investing up to about $350 million in new education funding dollars – which should move Utah up one position in the national rankings for per-pupil K-12 funding, from 50th place to 49th if it is fully implemented.
    • Shifting who pays these new dollars in a way that unfortunately more negatively impacts poor and middle class families. The Our Schools Now initiative proposal that was set aside in favor of this compromise would have raised over $700 million mostly from an income tax increase paid by the top 20% of Utahn (those who earn over $115,000). The compromise shifted these funds to come from more regressive gas and property tax increases.

LOSS: HB 148: House Bill 148 Tax Revisions- Sales Tax on Food (Rep. Quinn)

  • Sought to eliminate the state sales tax on grocery food items (currently 1.75%) and make up for the $88 million in lost revenue by slightly increasing the general state sales tax rate from 4.7 to 4.92%. One underappreciated benefit of this tax change would have been to shift 20% of the $88 million, or $17.6 million, off of state residents and onto tourists and out-of-state residents who purchase Utah exports.  The bill passed the House but was killed by the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

WIN: Two Significant Intergenerational Poverty (IGP) bills

  • HB 326 Intergenerational Poverty Initiative (Rep. Redd) establishes a one-time $1 million grant program for local IGP initiatives.
  • SB 162 Intergenerational Poverty Matching – Education Savings Plan (Sen. Vickers) establishes a $100,000 matching grant program for IGP families that invest in a Utah Educational Savings Plan for their children's post-secondary education. 

VUC leg summ p1 graphicVUC leg summ p2 graphic

Published in News & Blog

New Economic Benchmarking Report Finds Utah Ahead of Arizona in Most Key Metrics of Economic Opportunity and Standard of Living

Salt Lake City, May 6, 2021 - Voices for Utah Children released today the fourth in its series of pdfeconomic benchmarking reports that evaluate how the Utah economy is experienced by median- and lower-income families by benchmarking Utah against another state.  This year's report, authored by Taylor Throne and Matthew Weinstein with support from interns from the University of Utah Department of Economics, compares Utah to its southern neighbor, Arizona.  Utah and Arizona have a nearly identical proportion of working age adults (18 to 64 years), increasingly diverse populations, and ready access to outdoor recreational opportunities here in the American Southwest.  The findings in this year's report shed light on some of Utah's greatest strengths as well as where we can continue to improve. 

Voices for Utah Children's State Priorities Partnership Director Matthew Weinstein commented, "The main takeaways from this report and the others in the series are that Utah's economic successes put us in a position to make the new upfront investments we need to make now -- in education, public health, poverty prevention, and closing majority-minority gaps -- so that we can achieve our true potential and follow in the footsteps of states like Colorado and Minnesota that have become high-wage states and achieved a higher standard of living, and do it in such a way that all our children can have a better future."  

The report release presentation took place online and can be viewed at https://fb.watch/5jZBVxpKOY/ . The presenters included both Taylor Throne and Matthew Weinstein as well as a special guest, David Lujan, Director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, to share the Arizona perspective on the report. 

 

Utah's Top Economic Advantages: Hard Work & Strong Families Allow Utah to Enjoy High Household Incomes and Low Poverty 

Utah enjoys a higher real median household income than Arizona, ranking #11 nationally, although there are significant gaps between the median wage of different racial and ethnic groups.  Utah's higher incomes are due largely to our high labor force participation rates and our preponderance of two-worker (often two-parent) households.  

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 LFPR sex

Ut Mn hrly wage plus

Utah Has Lower Poverty Rates Overall But Still Suffers from Large Racial/Ethnic Gaps 

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Educational Attainment: Utah Ahead of Arizona But Falling Behind the Nation

The charts below from our latest benchmarking report compare Utah, Arizona and the nation as a whole on educational attainment. Historically Utah was well ahead of the nation, but more recently evidence has mounted that the younger generation of Utahns is not keeping up with the nation's gains at the level of higher education.  Moreover, there are stark racial/ethnic gaps in both states and the nation as a whole. 

Ut Mn educ attainment 

Utah's high school graduation rates are at or below national averages for most racial/ethnic categories, including our two largest groups, Whites and Latinos. 

HS grad rates

We're also very concerned that Utah's gap between high school graduation rates for Whites and Latinos is larger than nationally. 

HS grad rate gaps

  The chart below illustrates the way that Utah's younger generation of adults has fallen behind the higher education attainment of the Millennial generation nationally.

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higher ed race ethn grpa

Can Utah Learn Any Lessons from Arizona's Strengths?

Besides Arizona's #11 rank for equal gender wage ratio (while Utah ranks #49), Arizona has more of its children in full-day kindergarten, has a lower 10th percentile hourly wage, and higher productivity.  Arizona's higher 10th percentile hourly wage is likely due to their higher minimum wage, although they do have more people earning poverty level wages overall.  Meanwhile, Utah has fewer people earning poverty level wages overall, but those at the 10th percentile for hourly wages earn less than their Arizonian counterparts. 

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Summary of Key Findings

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Ut Mn big chart 2 std of liv 

The full 56-page report is pdfavailable here as a pdf download.  

Policy Implications

Racial/Ethnic Gaps

Racial and ethnic gaps remain a major challenge in the nation overall, and Utah and Arizona are no exception. Disparities in Utah between minority racial & ethnic groups compared to their White non-Hispanic peers are evident in high school graduation rates, wages, gender pay gaps, poverty rates, and uninsured rates. Addressing these gaps through an upfront investment in education would likely increase educational attainment, wages, and standard of living overall and would therefore contribute to reducing racial and ethnic gaps in the future.   

The Link Between Education and Income

The link between education and income is well-established. States with higher education levels generally have higher levels of worker productivity, wages, and incomes. In the current comparison with Arizona, Utah’s higher education levels make for higher levels of wages and income. The lesson for Arizona would be raise education levels to raise the state’s standard of living. The same applies to Utah, where the Legislature has struggled to turn seemingly large dollar increases in education funding every year into increases in real per-pupil investment sufficient to get Utah out of last place in the national ranking.

The latest data from the Census Bureau reports that Utah remains in last place in per-pupil education investment at $7,628, with Arizona only slightly better at $8,239 and 47th in the nation (for FY 2018). While Utah has done well for its meager investment levels, achieving impressive gains in educational performance as measured by NAEP 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores (see Figure 31, page 25), will we be able to continue to advance while remaining in last place?  

While Utah “does more with less” in education compared to other states, we have growing challenges to address. Utah has racial/ethnic education gaps which are larger than the national average, for example for Hispanic and American Indian high school graduation rates (see Figure 33, page 26). Utah’s pupil-to-teacher ratio is 22.9, ranking 48th while the national average is 16 (see Figure 22, page 21). Moreover, Utah teacher pay has also fallen over the past 50 years by 1.8% while nationally teacher salaries have increased 6.7% (see figure 24, page 22). 

At the college level, Utah historically was always ahead of the national average for attainment of bachelor’s degrees and above. But Census data show Utah’s lead shrinking relative to the nation with each successive generation, to the point now that Utah millennials (ages 25-34) are behind their peers nationally, despite relatively generous state support and low tuition levels.

Can Utah Become a High-Wage State?

For many years, economists have debated whether Utah is a low-wage state, as the Utah Foundation discussed in their 2008 report, “Is Utah Really a Low-Wage State?”[1] That report argued that our seemingly low wages were explained by our younger demographic profile and lower cost of living. While this report does not examine how wages intersect with age demographics, Utah ranks 29th in median hourly wages, compared to 41st in 2004 (see chart below).  When adjusted for our low cost of living, Utah’s median hourly wage in 2019 was $19.17, just 16 cents lower than the national level. These data seem to demonstrate that Utah has gone from being a low-wage state a generation ago to middle-wage status today, a considerable accomplishment.

UT rank in median wages

One question Utah leaders may now wish to consider is, is that good enough? Should we declare, “Mission Accomplished”? Or is Utah in a position, like Colorado and Minnesota before us, to become, over time, a high-wage state and set our sights on taking the necessary steps today to achieve that goal over the years and decades to come? 

Similarly, how do we include those earning the lowest wages in the gains Utah has made and will potentially make in the future?  Utah is not even a half percentage point lower than the national share of workers earning poverty level wages (see Figure 55, page 38) and lags behind the nation’s 10th percentile wage, ranking 30th (see Figure 54, page 37).  Even as the state with the lowest income inequality ranking in the nation (see Figure 45, page 31), Utah suffers from a tremendous gap between low-income workers and the rest of the income scale.

The main lesson that emerges from the Working Families Benchmarking Project reports comparing Utah to Colorado, Minnesota, Idaho and now Arizona is the following: Higher levels of educational attainment translate into higher hourly wages, higher family incomes, and an overall higher standard of living. The challenge for policymakers is to determine the right combination of public investments in education, infrastructure, public health, and other critical needs that will enable Utah to continue our progress and achieve not just steady growth in the quantity of jobs, but also a rising standard of living that includes moderate- and lower-income working families from all of Utah’s increasingly diverse communities.

 

MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE BENCHMARKING PROJECT:

KUTV-2:  https://kutv.com/news/local/utah-vs-arizona-new-report-shows-utah-leads-neighbor-in-most-economic-categories

Facebook Live Event discussing the report overall joined by David Lujan, Director of Arizona Center for Economic Progress at Children's Action Alliance: https://fb.watch/68E_JarLMT/

Facebook Live Event focusing on women in higher education, the gender pay gap, and income equality with panelists: Dr. Susan Madsen, Founder and Director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project; Marshall Steinbaum Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of Utah's department of Economics; and Gabriella Archuleta JPP MPP, Policy Analyst with YWCA Utah.  https://fb.watch/68FoEVvGwY/

Facebook Live Event focusing on Utah's economic success and economic development strategy with panelists: Howard Stephenson MPA, former Utah Senator; Phil Dean MS MPA, public finance senior research fellow at the Gardner Institute; and Thomas Maloney PhD., Professor, Department of Economics, University of Utah. https://fb.watch/6r25O5rdDd/ 

Facebook Live Event focusing on education in Utah from pre-school to higher education, focusing on educational attainment & closing racial and ethnic gaps with panelists: Carrie Mayne, Chief Economist for Utah System of Higher Education; Andrea Rorrer PhD., Director of the University of Utah's Education Policy Center; and  Anna Thomas MPA, Senior Policy Analyst at Voices for Utah Children.  https://fb.watch/7iKYaR9Zy4/

Published in News & Blog

Voices for Utah Children recently released our annual data book Measures of Child Well-Being in Utah along with the National Annie E. Casey Data Book. These annual publications provide citizens, advocates, community leaders and policymakers with the most timely and comprehensive data regarding the health and well-being of Utah's children. Combined, these publications provide a look at how Utah compares to the rest of the nation, as well as a more in-depth picture of child well-being at the county level. Used together, these data books are a reliable source for accurate information that can help shape priorities and policies to improve the well-being of Utah's children.

If we had a crystal ball that told us how our children would be doing two, five, or ten years down the road we could make thoughtful, calculated policy decisions. To make plans for an increasing number of children it is imperative that we have good data on how children have fared in the past and how that compares to today. That is one of the basic premises of the KIDS COUNT Project - provide accurate, accessible data to make sure the future that is “just around the corner” is a positive one for all of Utah’s children.

One of the things we know about children in Utah is that there will be more of them in the future. Population estimates from the U. S. Census Bureau indicate that the number of children in Utah in 2011 was 882,354. By 2015 that number had risen to 912,496. By 2050, the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget projects that Utah’s child population will be well over a million at 1,388,651. With an expanding child population, it is important to understand what the needs are today so we can plan for tomorrow. So how are the children doing?

According to the National Data book, improvements have been achieved across almost all key areas of well-being for children. The state is ranked seventh nationally in overall child well-being, landing in the top ten for both child economic well-being and family and community context. This data points to the fact that children in Utah are benefiting from state policies aimed at helping them succeed.

Boosted by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and a push for outreach, Utah has dramatically increased access to health insurance for children: Between 2014 and 2015, 20,000 fewer children lacked coverage. This progress has helped Utah recover from a fall to 27th place in child health last year, and the state now ranks 19th nationally. However, at 7%, the percentage of children without insurance is still above the national average and more can be done to provide kids with the health and security proven to better position them for success later in life.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being and family and community — that represent what children need most to thrive. Utah ranks:

  • 5th in economic well-being. At 20 percent, Utah has one of the nation’s lowest percentages of children who have no parent with full-time, year-round employment. However, the percentage of children living in poverty remained unchanged at 13 percent between 2014 and 2015.
  • 15th in education. The state saw decreases in the percentage of eighth graders scoring below proficient in math, fourth graders who were below proficient in reading, and in the number of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending school.
  • 3rd in the family and community domain. Just 5 percent of children in Utah live in high-poverty areas, which is well below the national average of 14 percent. The teen birth rate has fallen to 18 births per 1,000 females.
  • 19th in health. The percentage of teens abusing drugs and alcohol remained at 5 percent for the third consecutive year. The child and teen death rate also hovers at the national average of 25 deaths per 100,000 children.

Along with critical gains in health, the 2017 Data Book shows that investments in early childhood education are paying off. Utah exceeds the national average for its percentages of fourth graders meeting proficiency in reading, eight graders meeting proficiency in math and high schoolers graduating on time. Utah also saw a decrease in the percentage of children ages 3 and 4 who are not in school, a trend that is likely to continue as positive policies such as SB 101 — which makes it possible to offer scholarships for quality preschool to families living in intergenerational poverty — are implemented. Positive policies such as this will have profound impacts on children’s lives.

Supplementing the National Data Book is Measures of Child Well-Being in Utah, an annual publication from Voices for Utah Children that presents county-level data to local policymakers and planners. Measures of Child Well-Being in Utah also provides information at the state-level on racial and ethnic disparities and it highlights emerging trends. In Utah, child death rates, suicide rates, and chlamydia rates are all on the rise. While the percentage of uninsured kids has been improving, this indicator will be affected by future policy decisions around Medicaid and CHIP.

Measures show that the percent of kids in poverty in Utah has declined slightly but there are differences depending on where you live and if you are a child of color. Statewide, almost 13% of kids live in poverty, around 116,000 children. However, 25% of Latino/a children live below the poverty level and county poverty levels range from a low in Morgan of 5.3% and a high of 31.9% in San Juan County.

Education data in Measures indicates that, once again, more children are enrolled in our schools than the year before. From Fall of 2015 to Fall of 2016 enrollment increased by 11,680 students. And this yearly increase is a common occurrence.

The Utah KIDS COUNT Project is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. By providing policymakers and citizens with benchmarks of child well-being, KIDS COUNT seeks to enrich local, state, and national discussions of ways to secure better futures for all children. It is intended to gauge the seriousness of the problems facing children, and to guide the policy trends and goals on behalf of children. Using these two publications together, KIDS COUNT can measure child outcomes and contribute to public accountability for those outcomes.

 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

Published in News & Blog

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

As organizations from every state and multiple fields dedicated to improving the well-being of children, we strongly urge you to keep the unique needs of children front and center and adopt a “do no harm” standard for children as you consider any changes to the nation’s health care system. Today, ninety-five percent of children in the United States have health coverage – an historic high – thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We must continue to move forward, not backwards for children, their parents and pregnant women. Preserving and expanding child appropriate health coverage and access to quality care for children with special needs in school or in other child-serving systems will impact children’s opportunities to succeed. Unfortunately, the American Health Care Act would move children backwards.

To meet the “do no harm standard” for children, we stand united in urging you and the full Congress to:

  • Preserve and protect Medicaid’s funding structure that guarantees poor and low-income children and children with disabilities coverage for the services and treatment they need to survive and thrive. Reject the per capita cap proposed for Medicaid in the American Health Care Act that will over time deny children critical care and disadvantage them throughout their lives. Any change to Medicaid disproportionately affects children, who constitute nearly half of Medicaid recipients – 37 million today. Over time the cap will also harm Medicaid’s comprehensive prenatal care for income eligible pregnant women in every state, including many high-risk pregnancies and coverage for nearly half of all births annually in the U.S. Medicaid also helps schools, child welfare agencies and other child serving systems get children the special help they need. All of this will be in jeopardy. Capping Medicaid spending does not create cost efficiencies; instead, it shifts costs from the federal government to states, counties, local communities, beneficiaries and providers. Such cost shifts will inevitably result in loss of or limits on health coverage for children and other vulnerable populations.
  • Protect the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and continue coverage for low-income parents. More than 11 million low income adults in 31 states and the District of Columbia are benefitting from expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Covering parents improves children’s access to health insurance and health care. The Medicaid expansion has resulted in improved access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, especially critical now with the opioid crisis affecting families across the country. When parents get treatment for their own health and mental health problems, it strengthens children’s developmental outcomes. The requirement for mental health and other essential health benefits for these parents will be eliminated if the American Health Care Act moves forward.

Investing in the health of children through consistent affordable health coverage yields a significant return on investment. Identifying and treating conditions early, before they become expensive long-term liabilities, is effective. Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults, with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes. Medicaid helps child-serving systems ensure children quality health care:

  • Early Childhood: Quality health coverage and care are essential for healthy brain development in children’s early years, the years of greatest brain development. Early childhood teachers can help children learn and develop, but need help to provide the basic early intervention services children with special needs require to thrive. The ACA and Medicaid also help child care providers and other caregivers get health coverage to keep themselves healthy and able to care for others’ children.
  • Education: Since child health impacts educational attainment, any structural changes to Medicaid or loss of ACA coverage would compromise returns on major investments in children from Early Head Start to college. Medicaid reimburses schools for services delivered to children and the specialized staff who provide them, especially for children with disabilities, and also for students who get critical health services at school, such as vision and hearing screenings.
  • Child Welfare: Medicaid offers treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders that can otherwise result in children entering the child protection system and keeping them there. It helps state and local agencies get treatment to children in foster family homes, children with special needs in residential treatment, children who move from foster care to guardianship, and those with special needs adopted from foster care. It also provides therapeutic case management, co-location of health experts in child welfare offices, services and treatment for children in foster care with multiple complex needs and often their parents that help shorten their stays in foster care and reunite families.
  • Juvenile Justice. While Medicaid cannot be used to care for youth in detention, it is an essential sometimes life-saving support for some youths with significant health or mental health needs as they transition out of detention and return to their family and community. It can help strengthen communities by preventing juveniles from re-offending.

We call on you and your colleagues in Congress to protect children’s health coverage as you consider the American Health Care Act and any reforms to the ACA and Medicaid. Any changes that move backwards and make children worse off by depriving them of comprehensive and affordable child-appropriate coverage will jeopardize not only their futures but the nation’s future economic and national security. We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”

Sincerely, Voices for Utah Children and other National Organizations

For a complete list of signing organizations, see the printer friendly versions:

  pdfLetter to Congress

 


LUGU Logo 1March 30, 2017 is Love UT Give UT!

It’s a day for Utahns to give to the nonprofits that make Utah special. Every donation to Voices for Utah Children through Love UT Give UT gives Voices a chance to win matching grants and prizes—and gives you a chance to win a car!

And you don't have to wait!  Donate now at http://bit.ly/loveUTchildren.

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

Save Medicaid Utah, a coalition whose members include AARP Utah, the Disability Law Center, Utah Family Voices, the Utah Health Policy Project, and Voices for Utah Children, has formed to advocate for preserving and strengthening Medicaid at a time when its viability is under attack in Congress. At stake is the health, well-being, and quality of life of over 320,000 individuals and working families in Utah – including more than 198,000 children, almost 16,000 seniors, and over 34,000 persons with disabilities.


“Medicaid supports our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members,” says Micah. Vorwaller, Health Policy Analyst and Legislative Counsel with the Utah Health Policy Project. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will cut $880 billion from Medicaid over the next decade. As a result, some 14 million Americans will likely lose access to quality and affordable care over the same period. “With that size of a cut, many poor Utahns will undoubtedly lose coverage,” Vorwaller said. The House plans to vote on the legislation sometime tomorrow, March 23rd.


In addition to the cuts directly related to this drastic funding loss, the AHCA undermines the successful 50-year state and federal partnership underlying Medicaid. The partnership has meant that, in good times and bad, the federal government has covered about 2/3 of the cost of care for eligible Utahns. However, a Voices for Utah Children analysis found that, if the caps or block grants proposed in the bill had been in place for the last 10 years, Utah would be facing an estimated $650 million shortfall today.


Such a prospect is especially scary for parents of the thousands of children who would lose their comprehensive benefits under the existing program. Gina Pola-Money, Director of Utah Family Voices, notes, “Many families of children with special health care needs have private health insurance but still have to utilize Medicaid for their unmet needs.” Similarly, Jessie Mandle, Senior Health Policy Analyst with Voices for Utah Children, emphasizes that, “Medicaid is the cornerstone of children’s health coverage; any cuts, block grants or caps will undermine the health and well-being of Utah children and families.”


Danny Harris, Associate State Director of Advocacy for AARP Utah, contends, “Providing a fixed amount of federal funding, as envisioned by the AHCA, could shift overwhelming costs to Utah taxpayers and families, who would be unable to shoulder the costs of care, harming some of Utah’s most vulnerable citizens at a time when their needs are increasing.” Faced with scarce resources and tough choices, the state may be tempted, or forced, to provide only bare-bones care to as few individuals as possible. Disability Law Center Public Policy Advocate, Andrew Riggle, worries, “We could see a rapid return to the dark days of mass institutionalization if services designed to help keep individuals in their home or community or be as independent as possible – like outpatient mental health care, group homes, in-home nursing, or personal care supports – disappear.”


Save Medicaid Utah encourages its constituencies to ask their representatives to oppose the AHCA, and to hold them accountable for their vote.


###

See printer friendly version:

pdfAHCA Could Have Deadly Consequences for Utah’s Most Vulnerable

 

LUGU Logo 1March 30, 2017 is Love UT Give UT!

It’s a day for Utahns to give to the nonprofits that make Utah special. Every donation to Voices for Utah Children through Love UT Give UT gives Voices a chance to win matching grants and prizes—and gives you a chance to win a car!

And you don't have to wait!  Donate now at http://bit.ly/loveUTchildren.

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in Press Releases

Testimonies from Utah Parents

Children will lose access to coverage and care because of Medicaid cuts in the ACA Repeal Bill.
The ACA Repeal bill proposes to slash $880 billion in Medicaid funding. These cuts and caps would decimate the Medicaid program and lead to:

  • Thousands of Utah children without health coverage
  • Cutbacks to critical health services & benefits for children, people with disabilities and seniors
  • Limited access to needed medical care

Currently 63% of all Utah Medicaid enrollees are kids, over 200,000 children. Under the current Medicaid program, children have guaranteed comprehensive protections to make sure they can access the health care they need. These protections include a comprehensive benefit package known as Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT), which ensures that if a child is diagnosed with a condition, she or he can get the affordable treatment they need.

But Medicaid cuts in the ACA bill could eliminate EPSDST benefits, and rollback eligibility so thousands of children would lose Medicaid coverage. Medicaid reductions would lead to shortfalls in state budgets; states would be forced to cut benefits to kids, roll back eligibility, increase cost sharing, and deny children the comprehensive care they need to thrive.

We can’t let this happen. For over 50 years, Medicaid has provided foundational coverage to low-income children and children with disabilities. It is the safety net for families who have fallen on hard times and a crucial lifeline of support for families with children who have special health care needs.
Here is what some working Utah parents are saying about Medicaid:

“It would be very hard to get the necessary medical exams and treatment [without Medicaid]. But thank goodness we do.” – E., SLC

[Without Medicaid] we would have to go to emergency room.”

[Without Medicaid] we would be in trouble with medical bills.” – S. , Tooele

“Gave me piece of mind knowing I could take [my son] to the doctor if needed.” -T., West Valley City

[Medicaid] has helped us through 4 babies… it’s very stressful not having insurance because there’s always the feeling of ‘what if.’ – B., SLC

“With Medicaid, I know my kids will be ok.” -E., Herriman

“[Medicaid coverage] provided me with information and opportunities that I would not otherwise know about.” – S., Sandy

“[Medicaid] helped me while I was pregnant and helped me keep my son up to date with everything the first year.” –L., Kearns

“[Medicaid coverage meant] Just knowing I could get help when I needed it through my pregnancy.” -A., SLC

“Medicaid help[ed] my family excellent[ly] because now they have excellent health.” – M., West Valley City

Tell your Congressional Representative to oppose cuts and caps to Medicaid.

The health and well-being of Utah kids are at stake.

Rob Bishop
Jason Chaffetz
Mia Love
Chris Stewart

 


LUGU Logo 1March 30, 2017 is Love UT Give UT!

It’s a day for Utahns to give to the nonprofits that make Utah special. Every donation to Voices for Utah Children through Love UT Give UT gives Voices a chance to win matching grants and prizes—and gives you a chance to win a car!

And you don't have to wait!  Donate now at http://bit.ly/loveUTchildren.

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

First there was the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” recap of the 2015 Legislative Session. In 2016, we brought you “The Magnificent Seven.” In keeping with the Western movie-themed recap of kids’ health bills, for 2017 we bring you:

“The Wild Bunch”,

a nod to Sam Peckinpah’s classic:a gritty gang of bills that made it through, and others that were lost in the fight…

Improving access to health coverage and care:

Several bills and appropriation requests were introduced that would expand children’s access to care or coverage including…

Wins for kids’ oral health care access! Senator Christensen (R-Ogden) sponsored SB 51, which would return Medicaid managed care services to a fee for service model. Ultimately, this bill was decided outside of legislation, however, the agreement reached will help more children access a Medicaid pediatric dentist or school-based preventive dental care. To further monitor the issue, Senator Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) sponsored intent language that directs the Department of Health to investigate pediatric dental care access issues kids enrolled in Medicaid may experience (SB 2).

In addition, the Department of Health announced this Legislative Session that they will be moving forward on expanding parents’ access to Medicaid, starting in the new fiscal year (July 2017). Initially included in last year’s bill, HB 437 (Representative Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville), parents below 60% FPL can now access Medicaid coverage (SB 7). Unfortunately, other coverage priority issues, including 12-month continuous eligibility for children on Medicaid, did not receive a funding appropriation this session. Thank you, Representative Ward for championing this important issue!

Greater focus on early childhood and maternal health:

This session, we saw several bills that expand new mothers’ access to care, while also strengthening early childhood services and care. Representative Redd sponsored HB 122 which would expand new moms’ access to Medicaid mental health services. Unfortunately, this bill did not advance, but we look forward to robust conversation about maternal health during Interim!

Medicaid funding for expanding family planning Services (HB 57, Representative King, D- Salt Lake City) was another budget item that did not receive funding, despite broad support from the Governor, Representative King, and other legislators. This appropriation would have helped individuals in the coverage gap access family planning services, and be more emotionally and financially-prepared for a newborn. Family planning services can also help women avoid risky pregnancies or other health complications. We will be supporting this important funding item again in the future.

We will also continue to support Family Medical Leave. Representative Pitcher (R-Ogden) sponsored HB 242, which would expand the number of small businesses required to offer unpaid leave to their employees, ensuring that more families could take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act.

But there were other wins for new moms and babies including much-needed funding support for Early Intervention Services/Baby Watch (Senator Luz Escamilla, D- Salt Lake City, SB 2) and SB 135 which will strengthen statewide, evidence-based home visiting programs for low-income mothers by conducting a study and creating a restricted account (Senator Escamilla).

In addition, Senator Ann Millner sponsored SB 100, which directs the Department of Workforce Services to assess and strengthen early childhood services and supports. Both SB 100 and SB 135 will improve services for new moms and babies in the future.

Protecting Families from Burdensome Medical Expenses:

Several of the bills we supported would enhance consumer and family protection. Representative Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) was a dedicated champion of HB 395 that would help consumers avoid surprise medical bills in an emergency room setting. This bill also included other important protections for consumers to assure that they can access adequate provider networks, without having to travel too far or wait too long to see a provider. It would also strengthen health insurance provider directories to make sure that consumers have access to accurate and up-to-date provider information. While this bill ultimately did not move forward, it sparked greater awareness and conversation about the issue of surprise medical bill that will continue into the interim.

A win for families is HB 278 (Representative Chavez-Houck, D- Salt Lake City), which makes it easier for divorced parents to seek medical care for their children. It requires medical providers to separately bill each parent for their due portion, and prohibits a parent from getting a negative credit report if the other parent has not made his or her portion. The onus is no longer on the parent to track down the full payment or risk a bad credit score. HB 278 will help more kids get the care they need.

Strengthening school-based health care and student mental health:

Finally, we also tracked several bills related to student health and well-being. A big win this session for Utah kids is the repeal of the so-called “No Promo Homo” in SB 196. Previously schools were not allowed to discuss homosexuality in the classroom and curricula. This harmful and discriminatory policy was repealed thanks to the efforts of Senator Stuart Adams (R-Layton), champions at Equality Utah and others, creating a more inclusive environment for Utah kids.

Another win for Utah students was Representative Thurston’s (R- Provo) bill HB 308 which will strengthen protections for Utah students against disease outbreaks, and standardize vaccination exemption requirements and procedures, creating an online education module for those seeking an exemption.

Overall, lawmakers took several key steps toward addressing bullying, student safety and teen suicide in Utah. Senator Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) sponsored SB 161, which passed in the eleventh hour. SB 161 strengthens school anti-bullying policies, and gives parents and school staff greater ability to address anti-bullying behavior. Representative Eliason (R-Sandy), who was also the floor sponsor for SB 161, sponsored HB 223 which establishes a suicide prevention education program, including firearm safety curriculum to be made available in schools. HB 223 is another important step toward addressing Utah’s youth suicide crisis.


But of course, a few good bills did not make it through despite a strong fight…

Representative King (D- Salt Lake City)’s bill HB 215, supported comprehensive sex education curriculum for Utah students. The bill hearing generated broad public debate; committee members agreed that the conversation around comprehensive sex education should continue next session.

Representative Eliason’s bill, HB 390 would have expanded mental health counselors in Utah schools by creating a pilot program. Although not funded, the bill highlights the need for increasing school counselors in Utah schools.

Despite a wild session, there were a bunch of important wins for Utah children, including expanding parents coverage and access to oral health care, strengthening early childhood health and a greater awareness of maternal health. As for the defeated bills and the battles lost, the fight continues.

Thanks to all who worked on these, and many other, important bills that will make a difference in the health of children and families in the Beehive State.


LUGU Logo 1March 30, 2017 is Love UT Give UT!

It’s a day for Utahns to give to the nonprofits that make Utah special. Every donation to Voices for Utah Children through Love UT Give UT gives Voices a chance to win matching grants and prizes—and gives you a chance to win a car!

And you don't have to wait!  Donate now at http://bit.ly/loveUTchildren.

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

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