State Policy

Since the start of the pandemic, Utah has received nearly $600 million in emergency federal funding to ensure that our child care sector can continue to serve families despite nearly overwhelming COVID-era challenges. 

In one year, at the end of September 2023, most of that funding will be exhausted. The potential impacts of this “funding cliff” are: 

    • More child care program closures, 
    • Much higher child care costs for families, and 
    • More dramatic workforce turnover due to lowered wages. 

By this time next year, Utah’s working families with young children will be in even more serious trouble when it comes to child care. That is, if we don’t start talking about how to use state dollars to fund the programs that have kept child care programs stable and open over the past two years. 

Utah’s child care industry struggled long before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated persistent issues in the sector such as:  

    • Tuition costs that are as high or higher than rent or mortgage payments, and 
    • Wages for providers so low that more than one-half (53%) of child care educators across the nation use public benefits to make ends meet.

Utah’s child care industry would not have been able to weather the COVID pandemic if not for $572 million in federal dollars, $325 million of that through the American Rescue Plan. This infusion of desperately-needed financial support: 

    • Kept hundreds of center- and home-based child care programs open even in the darkest moments of the pandemic;
    • Allowed more families to access child care subsidies with fewer out-of-pocket expenses; 
    • Funded higher wages and even a workforce bonus for early care and education professionals; and
    • Supported regional efforts to recruit new child care providers into the field, while paying startup and licensing costs for these new business owners.

Perhaps the greatest impact was felt through child care stabilization grants offered through the state Office of Child Care. These grants helped child care providers defray the unexpected costs associated with the pandemic, and stabilize their business operations so they could continue to provide care. The grants also helped many providers pay their staff members $15/hour or more. Thanks to these grants, Utah has experienced much fewer child care program closures than many other states.

While very grateful for this support, early care and education providers across Utah tell us that the impending funding cliff has them feeling worried and even hopeless about the future of their work. What they will do when the stabilization grants end in September 2023, and this long-needed government support vanishes?

 A report based on surveys of child care providers in Kentucky reported that when federal American Rescue Plan COVID relief dollars run out in that state: 

    • More than 70% will be forced to raise tuition for working parents
    • Close to 40% indicated they would cut staff wages, and 
    • More than 20% said they would permanently close their child care center. 

Even before the pandemic, Utah had a 65% gap between the need for child care and the capacity of programs to provide it. When relief dollars end, this gap could widen, forcing parents to leave their jobs in an already desperate job market. The lack of accessible child care already accounts for a loss of $512 million in lost earnings, business productivity, and revenue each year in Utah. 

The end of ARPA funds could also mean wage losses in a profession already vastly underpaid at $10.47/hour (or $20,940/year) in Utah. 

State leaders can and need to find ways to continue these business-saving policies. With Utah lawmakers talking about overflowing state coffers and potential tax cuts, we know the money exists. These dollars can be redirected to make a real investment in the child care sector. Even small efforts like covering the costs associated with licensing or removing the bureaucratic burdens of city parking requirements can make an impact.  

This month, newly released Census Bureau data showed an incredible national decline in childhood poverty. Poverty fell to the lowest level on record in 2021 and it was the largest year-to-year decline in history. The decline is largely attributed to a combination of emergency pandemic aid and the child tax credit expansion. We know that access to quality, affordable, safe child care is a good investment in children and families. Let’s learn from the lessons of the last two years and make the investment in children and families that Utah needs. 

Published in News & Blog

Labor Day weekend is in the past, the “heat dome” has cracked, and we are well on our way into the 2022-23 school year. Oh, and the majority of Utah families still have no choice when it comes to their child’s kindergarten program.

Ensuring that all Utah families have access to the type of kindergarten program that is right for their child – be it half-day or full-day – remains a top priority of Voices for Utah Children this school year. The current reality in our state is that most families would prefer to attend optional full-day kindergarten (FDK), but aren’t able to access it at their neighborhood or charter school.

We are proud of the progress we and our many amazing partners have made together over the past several years:

  • From $7.5 million in state funding for optional full-day kindergarten programs in 2018 to $36.7 million available in for the current school year!
  • From fewer than 25% of Utah kids with access to optional FDK in 2018 to more than 40% with access in the current school year!

Nonetheless, Utah remains dead last in the nation in terms of kindergarteners who have access to a full-day program. Most states haven’t seen that low of a rate of participation in FDK for decades.

Many Utah parents want it, many Utah schools want to offer it, but the funding available to expand optional FDK is simply insufficient. As a result, in our state, a family’s home address remains the single greatest determining factor as to whether that family has the chance to participate in an optional full-day kindergarten program.

We believe 2023 is the year to turn this around – by passing legislation that guarantees future education funding for optional full-day kindergarten for as many families as would like to participate.

During the 2022 legislative session, Utah policymakers had the opportunity to pass such a bill: HB193, Full-Day Kindergarten, sponsored by Rep. Steve Waldrip and Sen. Ann Millner.  By the end of the session, however, the original bill had been scaled back in funding, and stripped of critical provisions that supported schools in expanding their optional FDK programs. The additional funding helped many schools increase access to optional FDK, but close to 60% of families still have no chance to participate.

With the support of thousands of Utah families with young children, our coalition partners are determined to pass a legislative solution in 2023 that will do right by all Utah kindergarteners, regardless of where they live in the state. Check out our Fall 2022 Full-Day Kindergarten video below, and visit the Utah Full-Day Kindergarten Now Coalition website for ideas on how to be part of the solution!

Published in News & Blog

Families living with health insurance, and without: New storybook highlights why all Utah children need health insurance

Throughout the pandemic, health insurance has been a critical lifeline for Utah families to stay healthy and avoid medical debt. Yet many Utah children and parents are still unable to access any form of health insurance; they are denied coverage due to their immigration status. A new digital storybook, released by Voices for Utah Children, highlights families’ real-life experiences with health insurance and medical care. The stories reveal how having health insurance- or not having it- can alter a child’s life course.

The digital book is a collection of accounts shared by children, parents and caregivers across Utah. To protect the privacy and sensitive material shared, names were changed. The book includes accounts of children growing up without health insurance; the short and long-term positive impact of CHIP and Medicaid for children; immigrants and asylees finding the care they need; and children being denied care due to immigration status, while their siblings born in the United States can access care.

The storybook humanizes a problem that is often ignored: today in Utah, thousands of Utah children are still shut out of health coverage. As one DACA- recipient recounts in the book, growing up her families was “Too scared of the cost to go to the ER.”

However, there are glimpses of hope on the horizon. In the 2022 General Session, the Utah Legislature considered a bill that would allow all income-eligible children to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP, regardless of their background or immigration status. The bill, sponsored by Senator Luz Escamilla and Representative Mike Schultz, passed the Senate with broad support, but ran out of time in the House.

The book lifts up the stories behind the 2022 legislation. Previous reports from Voices for Utah Children have estimated the significant state savings if all children have coverage. The digital storybook shows the emotional, physical and financial costs families pay when their children are denied health insurance, and the life-changing benefits when families are able to get coverage.

Download Storybook Today!

Published in News & Blog

This Session, one of Voices for Utah Children’s top priority bills received very little public attention despite its behind-the-scenes activity. Below we will unpack what happened, lessons we learned, and what we believe the path forward should be so we can reach 100% Kids Coverage in Utah.

First a little background, during the 2021 Legislative Session, we were thrilled to see many statements in support of children’s health insurance coverage. Speaker Wilson highlighted children’s coverage and Utah’s high rate of uninsured kids during his opening Session remarks and supported funding for CHIP outreach. On the Senate side, Senator Escamilla championed a bill to Cover All Kids, which former House Leader, Representative Gibson, sponsored on the House side. While the bill did not make it through in the final days of the Session, it seemed well-positioned to pass in 2022.

Onto 2022…

This year Senator Luz Escamilla ran Senate Bill 185. Like her bill last year, SB 185 ensured all Utah children could get covered and stay covered by allowing income -eligible Utah children access to Medicaid and CHIP, regardless of immigration status. In addition, SB 185 restored funding for continuous eligibility for Medicaid children. Senator Escamilla skillfully navigated SB 185, with approval from the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee and broad support on the Senate floor. On the House side, Majority Leader, Representative Mike Schultz, stepped up as the House Sponsor to usher the bill across the finish line. But unfortunately, the bill was never brought to the full floor for a vote in the House.

So what happened this year?

Although SB 185 made it out of the Senate with little objections or pushback, it ran into obstacles in the House. The bill arrived in the House without enough time for a committee hearing. While it could have gone through without one, members of the House did not have the full time to discuss and familiarize themselves with the bill and work through question or concerns.  Although the bill never came to the floor for a full vote, it did have strong bipartisan support. Cover All Kids got even closer this year, but still fell short.

Going forward, we must discuss any questions or concerns directly. We invite lawmakers to join us in having honest conversations about the children we are leaving behind in our state, the children we are deciding not to cover. All children growing up in Utah need health insurance to thrive, regardless of their immigration status. To deny some children access to health care is unconscionable.

It is time we amplify the many voices, the stories, the statewide energy and support for Covering All Kids.  Lawmakers are ready; Utahns are ready. It’s time we act to Cover All Kids.

Learn more about the stories and join our campaign at https://www.100percentkids.health/take-action

Published in News & Blog

This Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) Advocacy Convening is for our grassroots partners in the childcare and early education fields, who want to be help build a better child care system to serve Utah families! 

This ECCE gathering will be an interactive, accessible half-day event for parents (and other who are responsible for young children), child care providers, community advocates, and early education advocates from all over Utah.

** For attendees traveling from off the Wasatch Front, free lodging is available for the evening of Friday, April 1, in downtown Salt Lake City. You must register by 12:00 p.m. on March 21 in order to take advantage of this offer. 

LOCATION


  • IN PERSON: Capitol Board Room 204 (2nd Level) at the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City

  • ONLINE: Zoom access provided in the week prior to the event to registered attendees 

DATE


This training is being held on a Saturday (April 2)  in order to be more inclusive of early education professionals who are busy caring for and teaching children throughout the work week, as well as the working parents who rely on these folks while they themselves are on the job. 

TIME


The training will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. 

SCHEDULE


  • 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. - Breakfast Social with free hot breakfast provided by Elizabeth's Catering 
  • 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. - Welcome and Overview
  • 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. - Panel Discussion with Utah Legislators
  • 10:30 to 10:45 a.m. - Break
  • 10:45 to 12:15 p.m. - Interactive Child Care Advocacy Strategizing for 2022-23 
  • 12:15 to 12:30 p.m. - Free hot lunch served by Elizabeth's Catering
  • 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. - Lunch discussion with Panel of National Child Care Advocacy Leaders
  • 1:15 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. - Small group planning for 2022-23 Advocacy Action
  • 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. - Wrap Up and Appreciations   

There is no cost to attend, but in-person participation is limited. Participants can attend either in person or onlineRegistration must be completed by Friday, March 25.

Register Today

Published in Events