SALT LAKE CITY — The House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee on Thursday recommended a bill appropriating $1 million that counties can use for initiatives combatting intergenerational poverty.
HB326, sponsored by Rep. Edward Redd, would make the one-time money available through a newly created Poverty Plan Implementation Pilot Program. The committee vote was unanimous.
Under the bill, a county could apply for grants from the program, so long as its proposal details "outcomes that would be used to measure progress toward specified outcomes; indicators that would be used to measure progress toward (those); and the total amount of money needed to achieve (those)."
Redd, R-Logan, said the bill addresses a critical social issue while simultaneously putting the onus on local authorities to figure out solutions that work best in their areas.
"In our counties and across our state, we have children and families that are in really diverse circumstances and situations," Redd said.
He said the "bottom underlying goal of this is to help families learn how to pull themselves out of where they are."
"We're trying to hep break this cycle of intergenerational poverty, which is often associated with childhood traumas," Redd said.
He noted that even for fully grown adults who were not raised in a nurturing home, "it is really tough for them to just make it through a day, let alone think about tomorrow or next week," since "their brains (are) wired for stress." He said his bill would empower counties that are trying to help "parents obtain skills to help healthy development of their children and mitigate exposure to toxic stress."
Weber County Commissioner James Ebert says the bill would help counties get more involved in solving the vexing problem of intergenerational poverty.
"Poverty is the single greatest threat to children's well-being," Ebert said. "Only a few years in poverty can have a severe impact on a child's trajectories."
Ebert said there are many in the private sector ready to enhance the poverty-fighting work of counties — "once we can show these programs are working."
Piute County Commissioner Will Talbot and Aimee Winder Newton, chairwoman of the Salt Lake County Council, were also on hand to speak in favor of HB326, though Newton said she was speaking only for herself.
Also Thursday, the same committee recommended HB319, which would create an Early Childhood Advisory Council to prepare a state report each year on "the quality and availability of early childhood education, health and development programs and services for children in early childhood."3 comments on this story
The council, made up of representatives from several state bodies as well as a representative from the Utah Head Start Association, would also give an annual "statewide assessment concerning the availability of high quality pre-kindergarten services for low-income children."
HB319 likewise creates the Governor's Early Childhood Commission, consisting of several state government officials as well as industry experts and to be overseen by the lieutenant governor, to receive the recommendations in the newly created advisory council's report and recommend policy, procedure and program changes to help young children.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, passed the committee on a 6 to 2 vote.