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Breaking cycle of poverty in Weber County

Wednesday , May 23, 2018 - 12:00 AM1 comment

Intergenerational poverty is a major problem in Utah. A state report issued late last year, “Utah’s Fifth Annual Report on Intergenerational Poverty, Welfare Dependence and the Use of Public Assistance,” provides great detail into the problem and the larger effect it is having on the state, on our cities and counties and, most importantly, on our people.

The effects of intergenerational poverty are many, according to the report: young children typically have poorer performance in school, primarily resulting in lower test scores and lower educational attainment; in communities with high rates of poverty, the state report indicates more individuals report their health as being either poor or fair, even with increased access to health insurance; working adults mired in intergenerational poverty earned, on average, $13,424 in 2015 compared to the state’s average annual wage that year of $44,318.

Breaking the cycle is difficult. According to the state report, intergenerational poverty is “poverty in which two or more successive generations of family continue in the cycle of poverty, as measured through utilization of public assistance at least 12 months as an adult and at least 12 months as a child.”

We were pleased to report last week that the Weber County Commission is moving forward with an initiative to begin tackling intergenerational poverty in our area. The board unanimously approved spending $60,000 with LSI Business Development to address the issue by crafting an anti-poverty initiative.

The agreement with Weber County calls for LSI to create a pilot program by July 1 to help several dozen low-income families break the cycle of poverty, with the plan being implemented by Jan. 1, 2019.

We urge LSI to craft a worthwhile and realistic program, as Weber County’s need is real – the state intergenerational poverty report indicates that 36 to 40 percent of Weber County’s children who currently are in poverty are at risk of remaining in poverty. The county is in the upper half of all Utah counties when it comes to breaking the poverty cycle, the report indicates.

Bringing in a firm with the expertise to address the matter is key, as most elected officials don’t have the background to tackle such a wide-ranging issue.

“We’re finally putting it in gear, so to speak,” Commissioner James Ebert said of the push to fight intergenerational poverty.

There was some disagreement among commissioners over hiring an outside consultant to handle the work, but we believe the group addressed it properly by making the contract with LSI good for one year, with the option to extend it for years two and three after reviewing if LSI’s plan is working.

And it’s important that LSI’s efforts are successful, as every child and adult should have the necessary tools and resources to be a productive member of society. Breaking the cycle of poverty now would help that effort.

We’re in agreement with the county’s plan to move forward with the consultant, but urge commissioners to ensure progress is being made before the contract is renewed. Breaking the cycle of poverty is too important to our residents for this to fail.

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