State, local leaders aim to stop poverty cycles in families

ST. GEORGE – Poverty that continues from one generation to the next is a big problem not just nationwide but also right in Southern Utah.

More than 45 percent of children in Washington County are currently living in poverty or are at risk for intergenerational poverty. Local leaders are combining efforts with a state initiative to end the cycle.

“If it can be done, if it’s possible to be done, it can be done here,” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said.

Cox is the chair of the Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission and is touring the 10 counties in Utah with the highest rate of children at risk for remaining in poverty; that group includes Washington County.

Cox and the Washington County Commission hosted an initial meeting of more than 60 local leaders Tuesday to begin addressing the problem of poverty and reliance on public assistance that continues from one generation to the next. City and county officials along with representatives in the health, faith, nonprofit and education fields filled the commission chambers to overflowing.

“The idea is that counties will be working independently to come up with their own solutions to work with these different groups to put together a plan to focus on these kids and help make sure that they have a bright future,” Cox said.

In 2012, the Utah Legislature adopted the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act, recognizing that children in the cycle of poverty and welfare dependency experience barriers to stability and opportunity. When families remain in the cycle of poverty there are high societal and economic costs to Utah.

The act directs the Department of Workforce Services to track intergenerational poverty statistics and share the information with other state agencies including the departments of Health and Human Services, Workforce Services, Juvenile Courts and Education. Findings from the fourth annual report were presented at the meeting.

“When we think about folks that are struggling,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said, “they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, they’re our family, they go to school with our kids. We have an important obligation to … help them.”

“It’s an important part of who we are as Washington County,” he said, “… to help folks overcome this challenge.”

“This is a really good start,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, observing that intergenerational poverty is a problem not just across the country, but in our own communities. He said:

When I first saw these numbers a couple months ago, I didn’t believe it – 40, 45 percent likely to be intergenerational? We need to solve that. We need to get to the root causes and find some root solutions. And I have confidence that with the help of the state, this county can do it.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Roy J May 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting. I wonder if it includes trying to convince these children to remain in the County after they graduate from whatever the plan might entail. If it does, I hope that plan evolves to include drawing better, sustainable, and more lucrative forms of employment, otherwise the children are likely to leave because they cannot capitalize on the assistance given due to the dearth of opportunity to live above the poverty line in Washington County.

  • DRT May 18, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Just what is needed, more government “assistance,” (read that interference in lives.) Isn’t it enough that all this “feel good” legislation is on the national level? Do we have to bring it down to our county level? I’m not against helping out, I am against just handing out!

    “This is a really good start,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, observing that intergenerational poverty is a problem not just across the country, but in our own communities. He said:

    “When I first saw these numbers a couple months ago, I didn’t believe it – 40, 45 percent likely to be intergenerational? We need to solve that. We need to get to the root causes and find some root solutions. And I have confidence that with the help of the state, this county can do it.”

    So my question to Mr. Pike here is simply WHAT IS A GOOD START? Another study? More tracking? I mean really, you can study and you can track until you are blue in the face, what good will it do?
    I didn’t see anything in the article about helping out with schooling. I didn’t see anything in the article about putting welfare folks to WORK at a paying job.
    All I see, is more political baloney.

    Mark 14:7
    The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them whenever you want. But you will not always have Me.
    John 12:8
    The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.
    Deuteronomy 15:11
    For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.

    Fine, freely open your hands, your hearts and your wallets, but not by just giving more money, or making more “studies.” Get these kids educated. Make going to school, or working, (including low paying menial jobs, or part time jobs, or ACTIVELY looking for a job,) a part of receiving welfare.

  • godisdead May 18, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    This is the result of the so-called free market where corporate profit is attained at the expense of common workers.
    If these politicians really cared about poor people, they might consider accepting Medicaid, spending real money on education, and letting people earn a living wage.

  • .... May 18, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    No problem let them become drug dealers

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