2 Southern Utah lawmakers hope proposed tax credit will help those experiencing intergenerational poverty

A bill introduced in the 2018 Utah Legislature proposes an earned income tax credit for individuals experiencing intergenerational poverty, location and date not specified | Image by Stas_V, iStock/Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A bill aimed at helping individuals who are experiencing intergenerational poverty – poverty that continues from one generation to the next – by enacting an state earned income tax credit passed the House on Tuesday and has been introduced in the Senate.

Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Westwood, St. George News

Sponsored by Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City the Utah Intergenerational Poverty Work and Self-Sufficiency Tax Credit, designated HB 57 in the 2018 Legislature, proposes to enact a refundable state earned income tax credit for individuals who are experiencing the cycle of poverty.

Currently there is a federal earned income tax credit, Westwood said when introducing the bill on the floor of the House, but Utah doesn’t have a state earned income tax credit.

HB 57 proposes that those who have received government help as a child and are now receiving government help as a gainfully employed adult will receive an earned tax credit on their state tax return, Westwood said.

To qualify for the tax credit, the individual must have been living below the poverty line and receiving government assistance such as CHIP or SNAP for at least a year since reaching adulthood (including during the previous calendar year). Additionally, the individual or individual’s family must have received assistance for at least a year during the individual’s childhood.

The 2018 federal poverty level for a single person household is $12,140; for a two-person household it is $16,460; and for a three-person household it is $20,780. The proposed state earned income tax credit would be equal to 10 percent of the federal poverty tax credit, Westwood said. On average, families would receive $242.

Poverty often leads to more poverty, Westwood said, with children in poor households often growing up to live in poverty themselves.

“They received less nutritious food, had less help with their schoolwork and had inadequate early childhood development because their parents had barely enough to live on,” Westwood said.

Information from the National Center for Children in Poverty seems to back up Westwood’s statement. The report stated the following:

  • Approximately 12-13 percent of adults who experience low-to-moderate levels of poverty during childhood (defined as anywhere from 1-50 percent of their childhood years) are poor at ages 20 and 25, with 7-8 percent poor at ages 30 and 35.
  • For adults who experienced moderate-to-high levels of poverty during childhood (51-100 percent of childhood years), between 35 percent and 46 percent are poor throughout early and middle adulthood.

This issue is particularly relevant in the more rural areas of Utah like Iron County, which Westwood represents.

“This bill is something that has been in the works for several years and is something that would help the people in my constituency,” Westwood said. “The rural parts of Utah, much like Iron County, often have a high poverty and intergenerational poverty rate. I believe that this will help those who need it the most.

A public health indicator from the Utah Department of Health with data up to 2015 shows that the percentage of children living in poverty in Iron County was over 20 percent. The data for smaller counties such as Piute and San Juan is even more staggering, with over 30 percent of children living in poverty as of 2015.

Though $242 doesn’t seem like much, Westwood said that for a family or individual that is working to lift themselves out of poverty that extra money can be a lifesaver.

HB 57 passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 41-32 with two representatives absent or not voting.

Southern Utah Reps. Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson, V. Lowry Snow and Westwood voted in favor of the bill, and Reps. Bradley Last, Michael Noel and Jon Stanard voted against it.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, location and date not specified | Headshot from Utah State Legislature webpage of Evan Vickers, St. George News

The bill was introduced on the Senate floor Wednesday and is sponsored on by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.

Vickers, who represents parts of Washington, Iron and Beaver counties said the bill has a significant potential to help the people of Utah, particularly the more rural counties which often have a higher percentage of people living below the poverty line compared to the state average.

Both Vickers and Westwood believe that there is good support for the bill. Westwood said there are several notable individuals and agencies who are concerned with the welfare of those in poverty and who have backed the bill, including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

However, Vickers said they still need to find a way to fund the tax credit and get the money in the hands of the people, adding that he does not think the bill will make it all the way through the Legislature unless it is packaged with additional tax reform.

If the bill does pass, Westwood said, it will be effective January 2019 so people can use their 2018 tax information to qualify.

“When we encourage those who are working to rise above the circumstances they had no control over, the whole community gets stronger,” he said. “Some of those benefited by this bill will be able to receive training, education and health care easier. This is a great bill that will make our already great state a better place to live for more of our citizens.”

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4 Comments

  • Kyle L. February 2, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    How about instead of giving away free money, that comes from everyone else, you give these people free tuition to a trade school or something of the sort that will help them in the long run instead of just giving them money to buy a new TV?

  • jaltair February 2, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    HB 57 – intergenerational poverty

    As residents of St George, UT, my husband and I oppose HB 57. Such a bill would create a state “entitlement” the working people of Utah could not afford. Such an entitlement, will not be a ladder to help people overcome circumstances. My husband and I have witnessed people who have operated businesses which allowed them to pocket monies and claim Federal earned income tax credits. As a professional in the public sector, I have seen generational poverty and reaction of those affected who enjoy government benefits. Only a few of those who have a natural inclination to achieve can climb their way out. This type of program will facilitate people to stay below or at poverty level and take opportunistic advantage of government for gain. The money would be better going to enhance education and help the children.

    The concept of the state of Utah starting another entitlement with “earned income tax credit” is an outrage and foreign to our conservative views and values. We are appalled that a Republican House passed this bill, and equally appalled that the Senate would even consider this. It is just another method of socialistic design to “spread the wealth.”

    We will not be supportive in any election of a person Republican or Democrat or other, who supports any type of state earned income tax credit measures for the State of Utah. As involved citizens, we will be tracking the progress of this bill and of those who oppose or pass it.

    • 12345 February 3, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      You’re going to keep track of who does or doesn’t support this bill ! lol I’m sure you have them running scared now !

  • PlanetU February 3, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I agree with you both but Kyle is right, they should certainly have to go to some type of school and learn ENGLISH too. Why keep on GIVING funds to them and it continues on to the next and the next generation. Birth control also needs to be available to poor folk.

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