My view: Give the gift of Medicaid expansion

By Marlo Balmanno

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26 2013 12:30 p.m. MST

Grocery bags loaded with food from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, sit in a cart before being loaded into a vehicle.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Enlarge photo»

The holiday season is upon us. As we look for the perfect gift or plan the perfect party, most of us are not thinking of Medicaid expansion. Weeks after the shutdown of the federal government, many Utahns said that the shutdown affected only a handful of our citizens: the park service employees, workers at Hill Air Force Base and maybe some of the offices in our federal buildings. Yet, there are a much higher number of Utahans that are not so easily seen: the thousands of families within our state borders who rely on assistance to feed and clothe their children. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services over 166,000 needy families in Utah.

As a board member of the LDS Democrats and a former recipient of WIC services, I am thankful for the helping hand. It prevented me from taking handouts further down the road. We started our small family while still in college with several jobs each and few resources available. WIC was the difference between living in our van and a stable home for children. The basic food stuffs and nutrition classes we received taught us how to make better food choices. I saw this program as a blessing that allowed our little brood to survive until we could walk on our own.

SNAP and WIC are both federally funded programs. I was extremely upset to find that several of Utah’s federal representatives contributed to the shutdown of the federal government which in turn stopped these needed resources. Thanks go to Sen. Hatch and Rep. Matheson for voting to reopen the government. These programs not only provide a way for parents to feed their children, they provide the basic nutrition for growing bodies to function.

As more families find themselves homeless, and unemployment still high, this is not the time to cut funding to these resources. For these same reasons, Utah should accept Medicaid expansion. LDS Democrats strongly encourage the governor to make the right decision for Utah’s families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Many friends came to me asking for advice on where to go for help during the shutdown. I could only give from my pantry and help them find coupons online. No one should be in that situation, especially in a society in which we believe all men and women to be brothers and sisters. The shutdown has ended and federal employees have gone back to work. Yet some legislators, right here in Utah, want to slash WIC, SNAP and deny Medicaid expansion, which would leave possibly thousands without aid.

Government has a role to play in helping provide for the neediest among us. To rely only on private charity to help the needy consigns those who have no connection to an organized charity to the discard bin of our society. I and the rest of the LDS Democrat Executive Committee ask that our legislators continue to fund SNAP and WIC and that Governor Herbert expand Medicaid to further help thousands of families in Utah. If we close our coffers to the neediest among us, we close the door to possible future greatness in this state and in the country.

Marlo Balmanno is a member of the LDS Democrat Caucus Executive Committee. She has also served as a stay at home mom to three children and a small business owner.

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