Southern Utah counties awarded nearly $500K to address cycle of poverty

Photo by nito100/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Officials from the Department of Workforce Services announced Thursday that it has awarded $900,000 in grants to eight Utah counties to address the issue of intergenerational poverty.

The Intergenerational Poverty Implementation Program Grant was awarded to Washington, Iron, Kane, San Juan, Utah, Carbon, Sanpete and Weber counties.

Intergenerational poverty is defined as a situation in which at least two generations in a family continue the cycle of poverty. According to Utah.gov, it is measured based on the family’s use of government assistance – specifically food stamps, child care subsidies, cash assistance programs and Medicaid – for at least 12 months.

Each awarded county has developed different strategies to focus on the four areas of child well-being to help reduce intergenerational poverty as part of the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative. A press release from the Department of Workforce Services identifies those four areas as the following:

  • Early childhood development.
  • Education.
  • Family economic stability.
  • Health.

“Utah communities are stepping up as leaders in tackling intergenerational poverty,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said in the press release. “These grants will help communities implement local solutions to improve the quality of life for our families stuck in the cycle of poverty.”

Counties were awarded varying amounts based on strategies in place for reducing the cycle of poverty. Each county must measure the progress towards their planned outcomes using data.

Southern Utah county awards

Washington County was awarded $150,000 and has plans to improve education and mentoring and connect people with resources like the “Circles” program, Dixie Technical College and Workforce Services to help those experiencing poverty to reach their work or educational goals.

Circles is a program at the Switchpoint Community Resource Center that first came to St. George in 2014. The program groups one “circle leader” – a person struggling with poverty – and two or three “circle allies,” who are volunteers who build a personal relationship with the person experiencing poverty to offer them support and help them achieve their goals. 

Washington County has one of the highest levels of poverty in Utah, according to the Washington County website. Approximately 45 percent of residents need enough assistance that they are categorized as being in poverty, and 16 percent of these individuals – approximately 25,000 Washington County residents – are considered to be in intergenerational poverty.

Iron County was also awarded a $150,000 grant. This money will go toward placing a social worker in every middle school to focus on reaching out to students in the cycle of poverty. They also plan to enhance their afterschool 4-H program.

The traditional counselors in Iron County schools are not usually equipped with individual therapy licenses, but the social workers they are bringing are licensed as such. Kevin Garrett, director of special programs for the Ion County School District, told St. George News they already have five social workers and plan to hire a sixth. These social workers will help students experiencing poverty to move forward with their lives and offer them access to any resources they may need.

“Part of helping the intergenerational poverty is being able to help those kids receive the services that they need,” Garrett said. “Social workers understand that, and they’ll know where to find those services.”

The social workers will work with all students, not just those experiencing poverty.

“This is something we really feel strongly about. We feel like it’s going to make a difference with our students,” Garrett said.

In Kane County, the $75,000 grant will go toward making the current part-time family resource facilitator position full-time. Their job will be to focus on early childhood development through Allies with Families and administer an afterschool program for kindergarten to sixth grade and a free summer lunch program.

San Juan County was also awarded $75,000 and officials have plans to make the current part-time family resource facilitator position a full-time job in order to promote early childhood literacy.

Central and northern Utah grant awards

Other Utah counties received funding for the following programs and efforts.

  • Carbon: Carbon County’s $75,000 grant will go towards expanding the Strengthen Families Program to teach parenting, children’s life and family skills through Carbon County’s Circles program.
  • Sanpete: Sanpete County’s $75,000 grant will go toward hiring a social worker to focus on preschool enrollment for kids experiencing intergenerational poverty, as well as connecting these families with services and programs.
  • Utah: Utah County officials plan to use their $150,000 grant to support several initiatives through community partners, including mentoring, health, education and food services. They will partner with the Utah State University Extension Office, Boys and Girls Club, Community Action Services, Utah Food Bank, Provo School District and the Utah County Health Department.
  • Weber: Weber County also received a $150,000 grant, which will go toward supporting the Integrated Community Action Now pilot program. The program focuses on family resiliency, community accountability and child self-determination. The grant money will also support trauma informed care training.

The grants were funded by the Utah Legislature during its 2018 general session. Requirements for funding were included in the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative, House Bill 326, which was sponsored by Rep. Edward Redd and co-sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson and received almost unanimous support in both the House and Senate.

“Many people in local communities understand the long-term effects of intergenerational poverty on children and families and are actively engaged in developing solutions,” Redd said in the Workforce Services press release. “These grants will assist ongoing efforts of communities in our state to mobilize local resources to address intergenerational poverty on a local level.”

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • utahdiablo September 5, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    Great,…here’s a idea, take any one of the countless “Help wanted” signs down and start working for a living like the most of us has had to and have continued to do each and every week for all our lives…that “tip” is free, doesn’t cost $150,000….and FLDS, maybe stop stealing $12 Million of our taxpayer Food stamps? …No we haven’t forgot and never will

  • Redbud September 6, 2018 at 4:28 am

    Yes help connect these people with all the low-wage jobs in St George, that’s going to be SOOOOOO helpful breaking the cycle of poverty.

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