Health

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Voices for Utah Children is proud to have co-hosted the momentous unveiling of the new State CHIP Program during our morning press conference. We are grateful to have worked with Senator Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) and Representative Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) to support the passage of SB217: ChIldren’s Health Coverage Amendments that led to the creation of this program.

Voices for Utah Children's goal for every child in Utah to have health insurance and access to high-quality health care.

In our state, an estimated 7.9% of children in Utah do not have health insurance, with greater disparities amongst rural children and Latino children, placing Utah as 37th in the nation for insured children.

The State CHIP program will play a crucial role in bridging this gap by providing comprehensive healthcare coverage, so that children can access the medical care they need when they need to lead a healthier and more secure life. 

This State CHIP Program is one piece of that puzzle.

The State CHIP program provides newly eligible children with comprehensive healthcare coverage, including well-child exams, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health services, and more, supporting more kids to have the opportunity to grow and thrive because of the access to coverage.

We are excited to continue working with Senator Escamilla, Rep. Jim Dunnnigan, and our 100% Kids Coverage Coalition, community and faith leaders, healthcare systems and providers, and more to outreach to all of our Utah families throughout the state so children get the health coverage and care they need. We know that this program will make a positive impact on many Utah families statewide and will get us closer to the goal of having all Utah kids covered.

Let’s get all Utah kiddos covered!

For more information about State CHIP for non-US citizens starting January 1, 2024 click here.

For more information about the new State CHIP program visit: https://chip.health.utah.gov/.

For more information about our 100% Kids Coverage Coalition visit: https://www.100percentkids.health/.

Published in News & Blog

The care for the children in our state and communities can be measured by our public investment in our smallest humans. From the fiscal year 2008 to 2022, Voices for Utah Children divided all state programs concerning children into seven categories, without regard to their location within the structure of state government to quantify the level of public funding and identify trends. The seven categories are:

  1. K-12 Education
  2. Health
  3. Food & Nutrition
  4. Early Childhood Education
  5. Child Welfare
  6. Juvenile Justice
  7. Income Support

An appendix of our tables, sources, methodology and description of programs can be found here. 

How Much We Spend

The interactive circle chart below compares how much we spend by category, program, and source of funding, just use the filter and click the category to zoom in.

  • K-12 Education makes up 92% of the state-funded portion of the Children’s Budget, while the federal-funded portion is more diversified across categories.

Spending Trends

We compare the budget to FY2008 because that was a peak year in the economic cycle before The Great Recession and all figures have been adjusted for inflation, so they are comparable across time.

  • From FY2008 to FY2022, total public investment in children increased by 43%, growing much faster than Utah’s public-school enrollment (district & charter schools) by 26%, or the child population ages 0-17 by 13% from 2008-2021.

The federal share of the Children's Budget has fluctuated between 18-26% but had its biggest increase at the beginning of the Great Recession and the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is also when state funding for the Children's Budget has declined, for example real state & local K-12 education funding fell by $206 million since FY2020, the largest two-year decline since the Great Recession in 2008-2010. Several years after the Great Recession the federal share of the Children’s Budget decreased and the state share started to increase again, something that will hopefully happen again as pandemic relief funding rolls back. 

Funding Sources: Federal vs. State

When the categories are disaggregated by source of funding, Food & Nutrition, Income Support, Health, and Early Childhood Education programs are mainly funded by federal sources, and Child Welfare, K-12 Education, and Juvenile Justice programs are funded mainly by state sources. And since Amendment G passed and allowed the income tax to be used to fund programs for children (in addition to K-12 and some Early Childhood Education & Nutrition Programs), the Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, and Health categories are funded primarily by the income tax. In FY2022, 98% of Juvenile Justice, 100% of Child Welfare, and 88% of Health categories of the state funded Children's Budget were funded by the income tax totaling to $475 M.

When examining the state-funded portion of the budget since FY2008 each category has a different story. 

  • Juvenile Justice programs declined the most in dollar amount, $32.9 M or 28% mainly due to a reduction in correctional facility and rural programs and it also had an increase in early intervention services which advocates consider to be a goal of juvenile justice reform.
  • Child Welfare programs declined by 16% or $21.8 M, mainly from the Service Delivery program which funds caseworkers to deliver child welfare, youth, and domestic violence services. 
  • Income Support declined 49% or $2.1 M and appears to be more cyclical, rising and falling with the Great Recession. Interestingly, the TANF grant is a mix of state and federal funds, and only a small amount goes to Income Support or cash assistance.[i]  
  • Food & Nutrition increased by 56% or $19.7 M due to an increase in liquor & wine tax revenues which supports the school lunch program.
  • Early Childhood Education had the largest percentage increase of 109% or $42.0 M mainly from the Upstart program but increasing in every program except Child Care Assistance.
  • Health has increased by 80% or $139.3 M from the Medicaid and CHIP program but also had a 58% or $12.4 M decrease in Maternal & Child Health. 
  • The category that has increased the most in dollar amount is K-12 Education.

K-12 Education Funding

State and local sourced funding for K-12 education increased by $1.6 billion in constant 2022 dollars from FY2008 to FY2022, but per-pupil spending only increased from $10,212 to $10,537 per student. This means that even though more is being spent in total dollars, it barely covers the increase in students during the same time.

In 1948, 100% of the income tax was allocated to public education, an increase from 75% when it was originally imposed in 1931. It was expanded in 1996 to include higher education, in 2021 to include non-education services for children and people with a disability, and may be expanded again depending on a 2024 ballot measure placed by the Utah Legislature.  

The income tax rate has been reduced in 1996, 2006, 2008, 2018, 2022, and 2023.  The graphs below illustrate a timeline of these changes and Utah’s total elementary and secondary public schools (district & charter) funding effort (including capital) as a percentage of personal income and rank compared to other states.

Unfortunately, the result is a downward trajectory and likely explains our second to last place in per-pupil funding in the country.[ii]

Utah's Education Funding Effort as a Percent of Personal Income

graph1

 

According to the fiscal notes, the last two bills that reduced the Income Tax rate in 2022 and 2023 estimated a loss of $1.3 billion in the Income Tax Fund from FY2022-2025 with more ongoing.[iii]

State & Local Funded Portion of K-12 Education

Another result of these changes has been shifts in the funding source for K-12 education. From the fiscal year 2008 to 2022, the federal-funded portion increased by 74% and the state-funded portion declined by 3%.

Meanwhile, Local sources have increased by 12%, possibly to meet the needs of their communities while state-funded sources decline and putting greater pressure on sources like the property tax which is more regressive than the income tax because it takes a greater toll on low-and middle-income families.

Rank of Utah's Education Funding Effort Compared to Other States

graph 2

We Need to Prioritize Children in the Budget

While Utah doesn’t have the most kids than any other state, we do have the highest share of kids in our population. And we as a community are entrusted to make sure they are cared for, safe, and have the tools they need to achieve their aspirations. As the Utah Legislature drafts, holds hearings on, debates, and passes the Utah state budget we hope they prioritize our most vulnerable and precious group, Utah’s children.

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[i] https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/tanf_spending_ut.pdf 

[ii] https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html 

[iii] https://le.utah.gov/~2022/bills/static/SB0059.html, https://le.utah.gov/~2023/bills/static/HB0054.html These fiscal notes show the loss from the income tax fund but they are not disaggregated by changes from the income tax rate or tax credit portion of the bills.

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BROAD COALITION CALLS FOR INVESTMENT IN UTAH’S FUTURE RATHER THAN TAX CUTS, DOCUMENTS $5.6 BILLION IN URGENT UNMET NEEDS

Salt Lake City – On Monday, January 23, 2023 at the Utah State Capitol, a broad and diverse coalition of advocates for the poor, for disabled Utahns, for education, health care, clean air, the Great Salt Lake, transportation investment, and a variety of other popular Utah priorities held a press conference calling on the Utah Legislature to prioritize addressing Utah’s long and growing list of unmet needs over permanent tax cuts that undermine our long-term capacity to invest in Utah’s future.

Utah’s strong economy and rapid recovery from the pandemic, combined with the ongoing impact of federal spending, have generated unexpected state revenues amounting to a reported $3.3 billion available for FY2024. These revenues put Utah in a position to address chronic revenue shortages that have plagued numerous areas of state responsibility. Instead, state leaders have proposed roughly half a billion dollars in permanent tax cuts, tilted unfairly toward the high end of the income scale, as well as additional hundreds of billions in one-time tax breaks.   

These new proposed permanent tax cuts would be over and above the roughly $4 billion that the Legislature has already cut from annual revenues in recent decades, leaving Utah’s taxes at their lowest level in half a century, relative to incomes.

4b tax cuts since 1985 CANVA 2048x1381

In response, today the Invest in Utah’s Future coalition presented a list of urgent unmet needs amounting to $5.6 billion, over $2 billion more than the amount of the “surplus” revenues.

The advocates also pointed out that, according to data from the Utah State Tax Commission and the Utah Foundation, taxes in Utah are the lowest that they have been in decades, following repeated rounds of tax cutting. “Of course we all like paying lower taxes, but at a certain point we have to ask ourselves: Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Are we, as the current generation of Utahns, meeting our responsibility, as earlier generations did, to set aside sufficient resources every year to invest in our children, in our future, in the foundations of the next generation’s prosperity and quality of life?” said Matthew Weinstein of Voices for Utah Children.

Speakers also referenced public opinion surveys by the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute that found that only 25% of Utahns support tax cutting over investing in Utah’s future, consistent with other polls done in recent years by the same organizations as well as by Envision Utah and the Utah Foundation.

Here is the list of urgent unmet needs that Utah has not been able to address due to the state’s chronic revenue shortages:

 Budget Area Amount Details Contacts
 K-12: Reduce class sizes from 29 to 15  $1.1 billion ($612m K-6 only)  

Reduce class sizes/improve student/teacher ratio below the current Utah average of 29 (vs national average of 24) to optimum class size of 15.

Utah Education Association Director of Policy and Research Jay Blain
 K-12: Paraeducators   $312 million  

Expand paraeducators to all Utah elementary classrooms.

Utah Education Association Director of Policy and Research Jay Blain
 K-12: Increase school counselors   $130 million  Increase school counselors per student to the national standard optimum of 1:250. Utah’s current ratio is 1:648, compared to the national average of 1:455.    Utah Education Association Director of Policy and Research Jay Blain
 K-12: school psychologists, social workers and special ed teachers  $285 million Increase student access to school psychologists, social workers and special ed teachers. 

Current and optimal ratios are: 

School psychologists: Now 1:1950/Optimal 1:500

Social workers: Now 1:3000/Optimal 1:250

Special ed teachers: Now 1:35/Optimal 1:25
Utah Education Association Director of Policy and Research Jay Blain
 K-12 Education: reduce teacher attrition and shortages  $500-600 million  Envision Utah estimates that we need to invest an additional $500-600 million each year just to reduce teacher turnover, where we rank among the worst in the nation. Our leaders’ unwillingness to solve our education underinvestment problem is why the majority-minority gaps in Utah’s high school graduation rates are worse than nationally and our younger generation of adults (age 25-34) have fallen behind their counterparts nationally for educational attainment at the college level (BA/BS+).   
 K-12 School Nurses  $78.5 million The Utah Dept of Health annual report “Nursing Services in Utah Public Schools 2021-22” found that it would cost $78.5m to hire an additional 785 nurses so as to have one nurse in every public school building. There are currently only 261 nurse FTEs in Utah’s public schools, a ratio of 1 nurse for every 2,583 students. One nurse in every building would improve that ratio to 1:644, which would still be worse than the national average.
https://heal.health.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/2022-Nursing-services-in-Utah-Public-schools-8-22-22-ADA.pdf
 Dr. William Cosgrove, Past-President, American Academy of Pediatrics – Utah
 Full Day Kindergarten  $70 million  Gov. Cox is proposing $70 million in the FY24 budget to make full-day Kindergarten available to all Utah families who would choose to opt in to it.  Voices for Utah Children Anna Thomas
Child Care $236 million

$236 million is needed to continue stabilizing the child care industry as federal funds are depleted. This funding will allow for the continuation of child care stabilization grants, retention incentives for early childhood professionals, the coverage of licensing-related fees in order to lessen the barriers to expanding, maintaining, and opening new child care programs, and regional child care outreach grants for rural and urban child care deserts.

Source: www.utahcareforkids.org/get-involved/2023-legislation

Jenna Williams  

Pre-K and Child Care $1 billion Well over $1 billion is one estimate for a much needed comprehensive system of early childhood care and education (pre-k) in Utah.  
Afterschool Programs $3.6 million Utah’s 303 afterschool programs serve 43,000 kids but still leave 99,000 unsupervised every day after school. During the 2021 “21st Century Community Learning Center” grant competition in Utah, $1,062,816 was available and there was $4.6 million in requests, indicating a $3.6 million funding gap. Utah Afterschool Network Director Ben Trentelman 
Health Insurance: Children: Cover All Kids $5 million It would cost Utah about $5 million to remove barriers to health insurance coverage so that all Utah kids can access health insurance. Utah currently ranks last in the nation for covering the one-in-six Utah kids who are Latinx and in the bottom 5 states for all children. Source: Voices for Utah Children and www.100percentkids.health Voices for Utah Children Ciriac Alvarez Valle

Health Insurance:

New parents
$10 million

HB 84 would cost $3m to extend post-partum Medicaid coverage for new parents from the current 60 days to one year.

HB 85 would cost $7m to extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women with household incomes up to 200% of poverty level.
Voices for Utah Children Ciriac Alvarez Valle
 Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Treatment Uncertain 

Utah ranks last in the nation for mental health treatment access, according to a 2019 report from the Gardner Policy Institute.

2020 report from the Legislative Auditor General found that Utah’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative had failed to achieve its goal to reduce recidivism -- and actually saw recidivism rise -- in part because “both the availability and the quality of the drug addiction and mental health treatment are still inadequate.” (pg 51)

Amounts not determined to address large gaps in workforce capacity, but two bills this year are:  

HB 66: $11m for additional Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams and 2 additional Receiving Centers in rural parts of Utah

HB 248: $5m for additional Assertive Community Treatment Teams
 
 Disability Services  $31 million

The DSPD disability services waiting list has more than doubled in the last decade from 1,825 people with disabilities in 2011 to 4,427 in 2021. The FY20 $1 million one-time appropriation made it possible to provide services to 143 people from the waiting list, implying that it could cost $31 million to eliminate the waiting list entirely. 

In the 2022 session, the Legislature added $6 million in ongoing and $3 million in one-time money to shorten the disabilities waiting list. This year, Rep. Ward is sponsoring HB 242 to dedicate additional base budget funding to reduce the waitlist by 200 people each year.
 Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities – Jan Ferre  
 Rural Utah Economic Development $20 million   Rural Utahns should not feel that they need to abandon their home communities and add to the growth pressures along the Wasatch Front in order to provide for their families. Rural economic development would benefit all Utahns and reduce disparities between the Wasatch Front and other areas of the state. $20 million was one estimate for funding for economic development projects like the San Rafael Energy Research Center (Emery County) and renewable energy projects around Beaver County, both serving areas where primary jobs such as Smithfield Foods have left recently, and renewable energy projects have the potential to stabilize county economies.   Community Action Partnership of Utah - Stefanie Jones and Clint Cottam –  
 Reduce/Eliminate Benefits Cliffs  Uncertain  The existing benefits cliffs in many public anti-poverty programs – where public assistance disappears suddenly rather than phasing out gradually when someone gets a raise or takes a new, higher-paying job – act as an unintended obstacle to the efforts of low-income people to work their way out of poverty.   Circles Salt Lake – Kelli Parker
 Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Services  

$310 million

OR

$68 million
 

Our economy incurs steep economic costs as a result of sexual and domestic violence. The Center for Disease Control estimates that over a lifetime the costs for a female survivor are $103,762 and for a male survivor $23,414. These include medical costs, loss of employment or interruption of paid work, criminal justice system costs, among others. A coalition of victim service providers and state agencies estimates the annual funding needed as $310 million ongoing to meet standard of care for all victims of domestic and sexual violence OR $68 million ongoing to fund the most basic level of services at only the current level of demand for services.

Erin Jemison, Director of Public Policy, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC)
 Housing  $346 million per year for 10 years  

Among extremely low-income renter households, 71% pay more than 50% of their income for housing, which is considered a severe housing burden. $346 million per year of state funding over the next decade will make it possible to build affordable housing  statewide for people earning less than 50% AMI, based on a state cost share of $80,000 per unit, and Utah is short 43,253 units.

For more information on the current and ongoing needs visit https://nlihc.org/gap/state/ut 

Utah Housing Coalition

Tara Rollins  
 Housing for Seniors  $67.5 million  

$37.5 million a year for 10 years will fund rehabilitation of 500 units per year at a cost of $75,000 per unit. If we don’t fund preservation of affordable housing for seniors we will lose valuable units.

$30 million per year will make available rental gap funding of $500 per month for 5,000 units so that seniors can afford to stay in their rented units.

https://www.utahhousing.org/preserving-senior-affordable-housing-report.html 

https://nyuds.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b8318f874017488ea9bdd51a296e59ef for senior housing report
Utah Housing Coalition Director Tara Rollins
 Homeless Services  $154 million 

$100m in one-time funds to produce 2,000 units of deeply affordable housing

$19m ongoing for tax credits and housing trust fund

$5m to the housing trust fund to produce 1,000 new units of affordable housing over the next 10 years

$30m one-time for projects to eliminate unsheltered homelessness for families with children: The total number of people needing emergency shelter services in Utah increased by 14% in 2022.  For families with children the increase was 33%.  This is why, for the first time in over 20 years, families with children were turned away from the family shelter in Midvale during the months of September, October and November of last year because there were not enough beds to meet the need.  $30 million would help purchase a motel to convert into a second family shelter and purchase land that can be dedicated to produce mixed income housing developments that include permanent supportive housing for families with children headed by parents with disabling conditions that have been homeless for six or more months.
 

Coalition of Religious Communities - Bill Tibbitts

 Air Quality in Schools $5 million  Funding to continue the successful implementation of this year’s federally-funded program placing air purifiers in every classroom in Utah, which will reduce the risks both from COVID and from Utah’s air pollution and is expected to result in improved school performance, even more than standard interventions such as reducing class size by 30%, or “high dose” tutoring. (Source: Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment) UPHE Director Jonny Vasic -
 Air Quality: Promote Transit $25.5 million  

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) experienced an increase in ridership during Free Fare February in 2022. Tens of thousands of riders, including many new to public transit, enjoyed the services, and stress on our transportation system and environment was lessened.

Governor Cox’s Budget Recommendations for FY24 includes a $25 million, one-year pilot for statewide zero-fare transit. This pilot would include the state’s three transit systems that are not currently zero-fare: Cedar Area Transportation System, SunTran, and the Utah Transit Authority. The governor also recommends $500,000 for a zero fare transit study to analyze the impacts of the pilot.

During Free Fare February, 87% of entities that subsidize UTA fares for their users continued paying subsidies to help enable the zero fare period. The Governor’s proposal calls on UTA fare subsidy partners to continue paying subsidies for their users during this one-year pilot period to cover $13.1 million in additional costs.

This pilot will provide Utah families price relief to help offset the burden of gasoline prices, gasoline tax indexing, and inflation, while also allowing researchers to analyze factors related to permanent decisions about zero fare transit

Steve Erickson -

 Improve UTA transit service   $175.6 million

$10.9m to match UTA projections to fully supplement free fares for a year. (In all, UTA projected $35.9 in fare revenue for 2023)

$3.5 million to address UTA’s driver shortage ($20/hr*2,080 hours*60 operators + 40% for benefits, taxes, etc.)

$30,000 to match CATS (Cedar City’s transit system) to fully supplement free fares for a year based on budget projections.

$136,000 to match SunTran (St. George’s transit system) to fully supplement free fares for a year based on budget projections.

$159 million to clear UTA’s debt to free UTA to expand and improve service.

$2 million to fund a matching grant from the federal government to study the feasibility of a passenger rail route connecting Boise to Las Vegas via Salt Lake and points in between.
 Curtis Haring, Utah Transit Riders Union    
 Hunger $1 million  It is clear that the state needs to do more in providing funding and other resources to help support local community food pantries. Utahns Against Hunger – Gina Cornia –
 Utah EITC  $57 million  Last year Utah became the 31st state with our own Earned Income Tax Credit, but we're one of the few who make it non-refundable, even though over 85% of the value of the federal EITC -- and the key to its poverty-reducing and workforce-enhancing power -- is its refundability. In 2022 under Gov. Youngkin, Virginia made their state EITC refundable. ITEP analysis shows 71% goes to the lowest-earning quintile and nearly all to the lower-income half of Utahns.   Voices for Utah Children – Matthew Weinstein –  
Gov. Cox’s proposed refundable tax credit   $54 million  Utah's Taxpayer Tax Credit shields most low-income workers from the income tax, which is a good thing because it makes our overall tax system less regressive. Now Gov. Cox is proposing to make it even better by making up to $250 of this credit refundable.  Drew Cooper, United Today Stronger Tomorrow
Eliminate the sales tax on unprepared food $200 million The food tax is the most regressive tax. One-third of it is paid by the lowest-income half of Utah households, who earn less than a sixth of all Utah income. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, low-income families pay 36% of their income on food while higher-income families spend only 8%. This is why 37 states do not charge any sales tax on food. Drew Cooper, United Today Stronger Tomorrow
Save the Great Salt Lake $333 million Gov. Cox is proposing $133m in new resources to save the Great Salt Lake and $200 million to help reduce water waste in agriculture. Source: www.sltrib.com/news/2022/12/30/dear-legislature-heres-2023/ Utah Rivers Council –Matt Berry
Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as it relates to undocumented Utahns   Our public fiscal policies – how we generate and expend public investment dollars – have a direct impact on whether we are widening or narrowing the gaps between different groups in Utah. The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion must be more than just words on a page. slchamber.com/public-policy/utah-compact In particular, Utah is home to 95,000 undocumented men, women, and children. They work hard and pay taxes and need and deserve access to the same public services as every other Utahn. Comunidades Unidas – Brianna Puga –
The economic case against tax cuts   Tax cuts are usually enacted to provide additional stimulus to the economy. Given our very low unemployment rate, along with ongoing inflationary pressures, now is not really the right time for new economic stimulus. The future is uncertain – some economists expect we may face a recession in the coming year, though there’s a wide variety of opinions about the likely timing and severity of such a possible event. Additional tax cuts right now won’t do much to affect that. However, investing now in the many unmet needs we face, particularly in the areas of water and climate, education, child-care, and the many other needs listed here this morning, will put us in a better position to thrive whatever the coming years bring us in terms of economic conditions. Univ. of Utah Economics Prof. Thomas Maloney PhD

 TOTAL

 

$5.6 billion – over $2b more than the amount of "surplus" revenue for FY2024

 

 

 The press conference was broadcast live on Facebook: https://fb.watch/ieyT_0Zi14/?mibextid=RUbZ1f 

INVEST press conf FB screenshot

Media coverage: 

 Additional one-pagers distributed by some of the coalition members: 

Published in News & Blog

By Sariah Villalon (Voices Policy Intern)


We live in a digital world where social media has become integral to our society. It has broadened our communication, allowing us to connect and share information with anyone around the world. It has helped bring awareness to many issues and achievements within our society. But let's face it, unintended risks and consequences come with every innovation. One of them is its effect on our mental health, especially our young people's mental health.

Over the years, there has been an increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide among the youth, especially among girls. Social media may influence these mental health problems through social comparison, cyberbullying, and exposure to other toxic content (Nesi, 2020). 

Governor Spencer Cox recently addressed the relationship between social media on the mental health of our youth and how we could improve the mental health of our youth in Utah. Some of his recommendations are the following:

  • Hold social media companies accountable by providing tools for parents to safeguard their children,
  • Implement a cell phone-free environment in schools to reduce distraction for students.
  • Encourage parents to set an example for their children by spending quality social time with one another without social media use.
  • Educate their children on what is appropriate to say on these platforms.
  • Monitor their children's social media use by using different tools.
  • Have an honest conversation about social media

There are multiple good points that the governor pointed out. We agree that social media companies need to be held accountable for the algorithm and design of their apps that provide a toxic environment for their users. A couple of legislative efforts have been created to hold social media responsible. But is it enough?

We do not see so much urgency from these big techs. Even if they get fined, they could pay everything off quickly. It also puts too much burden on the parents to monitor and safeguard their children. We also have to be honest that we cannot blame everything on these companies. So, what can we do?

We need to hold these social media companies responsible by making them contribute to funding social media education for the youth. Organizations such as Digital Respons-Ability train parents, students, and educators on digital citizenship.

We cannot escape the digital world, and it will only progress from here on. We need to teach our youth how to use the technology and social media they have properly. Removing phones during school time will not solve our problems. By educating the youth, they can be better equipped to make informed decisions for their lives and improve their learning.

Another is research on the effect of social media on youth mental health. As we know, mental health is multi-faceted. We cannot just say that one factor causes mental health problems. We need more longitudinal studies on its effects to counter better or mitigate its adverse effects.

More importantly, let's talk more openly about our mental health. Let us educate ourselves and share our experiences with our children so they can also be aware of their well-being. Give them the resources to improve or manage their mental health. When children are more knowledgeable, it can increase their chances of knowing when and where to get the help they might need. 

Learn more on how we can help through this video. You can also download this infographic on Youth Mental Health & Digital Media for more information. 

Published in News & Blog

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

Salt Lake City, August 31, 2022 - Voices for Utah Children released today the fifth in its series of economic 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 intern Bryce Fairbanks from the University of Utah Department of Economics, compares Utah to Texas.  While the Economic Opportunity benchmarks come out nearly even, with Utah ahead in 11 and Texas ahead in 8, in the Standard of Living category Utah predominates in 20 categories and Texas in just two.

Voices for Utah Children's Economic Analyst Taylor Throne commented, "It seems clear that Texas has more to learn from Utah than vice versa. In terms of economic opportunity, Utah outperforms Texas for our labor force participation rate and our low unemployment rate (see page 13 of the report). In education, while both states are in the bottom 10 for investment, Utah claims much better 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores. At the university level, Utah invests more and enjoys stronger educational attainment levels (though our younger generation has lost the lead over the nation enjoyed by our older generations.) (See page 17.)  Utah ranks 1st in the nation for our low level of income inequality, while Texas ranks 38th. We also stand out for intergenerational mobility and rank #1 for education funding fairness while Texas ranks 34th (see page 21). In the second part of the report where we measure standard of living. Utah is the clear winner in most measures. Utah enjoys much lower rates of poverty and uninsured children (though both states rank at the bottom for insuring Hispanic/Latino children) (see page 25).The most recent Kids Count overall ranking has Utah 4th and Texas 45th (see page 29). Utah also has shorter commutes, higher homeownership rates, and more volunteerism and voter participation (see page 33)." 

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 racial/ethnic 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/ffuSPZ09MR/. The presenters included both Taylor Throne and Matthew Weinstein as well as a special guest, Brandon Dew, President of Central Utah Labor Council.  

View Report

 

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

Can Texas Learn Any Lessons from Utah? 

Utah enjoys a higher real median household income than Texas, ranking #11 nationally, although past inequities have left a legacy of barriers causing 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.  

 real median household income

Even though Texas has a larger GDP per capita and ranks ahead of Utah for business climate, Utah has a higher share of people working and fewer people looking and unable to find work. Utah ranks 1st in the nation for income equality by the GINI Index, 1st for K-12 funding equity, and has fewer people living below the poverty line.

Gini index

Utah is the clear winner by most standard of living measures. The most recent Kids Count overall ranking has Utah 4th and Texas 45th.  Utah also has shorter commutes, higher homeownership rates, and more volunteerism and voter participation. Utah also has a much fairer tax system.  Texas applies one of the highest tax rates in the nation (6th highest) to households with the lowest incomes and applies one of the lowest tax rates (9th lowest) to households with the highest income. This is because Texas has no personal or corporate income tax to offset the regressivity of their major revenue sources: sales, excise, and property taxes.  As a result, Texas is one of the highest-tax states in the nation for lower-income residents, and one of the lowest-tax states for the wealthy.

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Can Utah Learn Any Lessons from Texas? 

Texas leads in early childhood education for pre-k and full-day kindergarten participation. Texas also has a much smaller gender wage gap than Utah, which ranks as one of the worst states for gender equality. When disaggregated by race and ethnicity, Texas has a smaller gender wage gap than Utah for every race and ethnicity except Latino and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women.

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Policy Implications

Strengthening the Labor Force

Utah and Texas are both far below the national average for median (50th percentile) and 10th percentile hourly wages, likely due to the fact that both are among the 20 states that never raised their minimum wages above the 2009 federal minimum of just $7.25 (now at its lowest level since 1956), and both states are among the 27 that discourage union membership through “right-to-work” laws. 

Addressing the Legacy of and Present Barriers Causing Racial & Ethnic Gaps

Racial and ethnic gaps are evident in almost every outcome where race and ethnicity are disaggregated, such as high school graduation rates, wages, gender pay gaps, poverty rates, and uninsured rates. It is important to note that these gaps were caused by social, economic, and political structures and policies that have perpetuated racial inequality, elaborated in our report. Such policies have had very serious consequences for people of color, especially children of color. And as in the rest of the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these hardships. Addressing these gaps through investments in early childhood and K-12 education, specifically where there is a high concentration of children of color (which includes many communities along the Wasatch Front, including Ogden, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, West Valley City, Midvale, and Provo) would likely increase educational attainment, wages, and standard of living overall and would therefore contribute to reducing racial and ethnic gaps in the future.  

Restoring Education Funding Effort

The link between education and income is well-established. States with higher education levels generally have higher levels of worker productivity, wages, and incomes. Voices for Utah Children has demonstrated elsewhere that Utah’s education funding effort has fallen from top 10 in the nation in the 1990s to the bottom 10 states today. While Utah “does more with less” in education compared to other states, will we be able to continue to advance without addressing the underfunding in our public education system? Utah has racial/ethnic educational outcome gaps which are larger than the national average, our pupil-to-teacher ratio is 3rd worst in the nation at 23:1 vs the national average of 16:1, and teacher pay has also fallen by 2% over the past 50 years, while teacher salaries nationally have increased 7%.

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) have fallen behind their peers nationally, despite relatively generous state support and low tuition levels. In addition, for young adults who do not seek to complete a college degree, apprenticeships and other skilled training programs or ensuring state contracts pay the prevailing local wage are two policies that have proven their value for achieving higher wages.

Can Utah Become a High-Wage State?

Utah has gone from being a low-wage state a generation ago to middle-wage status today, a considerable accomplishment. 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?

Chart UT med hrly wage rank 2000 2021

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 and lags behind the nation’s 10th percentile wage, ranking 33rd.  Even as the state with the lowest income inequality ranking in the nation, 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, Arizona and now Texas 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.

The 41-page report is available for download here

 

MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE BENCHMARKING PROJECT:

The Spectrum: https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2022/09/02/report-compares-utah-texas-economy-standard-living-homes-jobs/7970912001/ 

KSL News Radio: https://kslnewsradio.com/1974565/new-report-ranks-utah-above-texas-in-aspects-of-economic-opportunity-and-standard-of-living/

Salt Lake Tribune:  https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2022/09/15/matthew-weinstein-taylor-throne/

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