Caring for Utah’s most vulnerable

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Gov. Gary R. Herbert visited the Fourth Street Clinic on the morning of Good Friday where he signed two bills to help care for Utah’s most vulnerable citizens.

“This is a good Friday in many ways because of the bills we are signing today,” Gov. Herbert said. “We are here because of the work of many people who have sincere compassion for those who are less fortunate in our society and in our communities.”

Business leaders, religious leaders, the Utah Hospital Association, as well as Republicans and Democrats all worked together to pass these companion bills, which will help Utahns experiencing homelessness and earning wages beneath the federal poverty level.

Gail Miller, a businesswoman and philanthropist noted that the effort to end homelessness “will take not just the funding of government, (but) it will take the funding of the private sector.” Miller said she is willing to lead the way for other businesses to follow.

“You can’t learn to love unless you serve, and in serving our homeless we will learn to love them and we will be able to help them get back on their feet,” Miller said.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Republican who sponsored HB 437, thanked Democrat Mayor of Salt Lake City Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams who “put our political differences aside…to accomplish what’s best for those who are most in need.”

“These two programs, providing health care and housing, they go together,” said Dunnigan. “You don’t want to provide housing without the opportunity to treat (and) help people get their physical and their behavioral health needs met. And if you’re going to take care of those physical needs and behavioral health needs, then we need to have some clean housing for them.”

To two bills signed by the governor were HB 436 Housing and Homeless Reform Initiative and HB 437 Health Care Revisions.

  • HB 436 will provide $9.25 million in the first installment of a proposed $27 million, 3-year funding plan to help Utahns get out of homelessness and back into our community.
  • HB 437 will provide health coverage to 16,000 Utahns living beneath the federal poverty level, using a federal Medicaid waiver and other funds generously contributed by the Utah Hospital Association.

While the conversation continues about how to help the rest of Utah’s poor and uninsured, HB 437 will serve to cover Utahns most in need.

The state will also continue to work toward solutions to help Utahns experiencing poverty. The governor is adamant that every Utahn should have equal opportunity to share in the state’s economic success.

The good news is, Utah’s overall poverty rate declined by two percent over the last three years and the state’s child poverty rate is significantly lower than the national average.

The governor is grateful to all Utahns involved in the effort to end homelessness and care for those who need help, including and especially the doctors who see Medicaid patients.