Working toward solutions for Utahns in poverty

Governor Gary R. Herbert participated in a roundtable discussion Monday on building economic opportunities for families in rural areas that included a host of local, state and federal officials convening in Washington, D.C.

In his remarks, the governor outlined steps the Beehive State has taken to address child poverty in rural areas and spoke about the importance of forging partnerships with local elected officials and community leaders to provide lasting solutions.

Utah’s overall poverty rate decline by two percent over the last three years and the state’s child poverty rate of 13.3 percent is significantly lower than the national average of 21.7 percent. There is still work to be done, however, which is why in his 2016 State of the State address, the governor asked the legislature to focus on rural communities with renewed determination and resolve.

“In my view, Utah’s success is incomplete unless all Utahns in every corner of the state have an equal opportunity to share in our economic prosperity,” Gov. Herbert said.

The state has been able to assist children and families experiencing poverty by using research to target areas where intergenerational poverty is most prevalent and working with families to help break the poverty cycle.

Utah has identified four focus areas to help children reach positive outcomes necessary to become successful adults which include: early childhood development, education, family economic stability and health. For each focus areas, the state has established key indicators, goals and benchmarks.

The state is also developing a roadmap to address poverty in each of the rural areas identified as at-risk for intergenerational poverty. These plans vary, as each community will have different partners and resources that will support the initiatives in their area. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Gov. Herbert said. “States need flexibility to customize programs to fit their needs and adapt to their local communities.”

While the state’s approach to address intergenerational poverty is relatively new, the governor is confident it will lead to greater reductions in the number of children living in poverty in rural areas in the months and years ahead.