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Bill to create commission to study intergenerational poverty advances to Senate

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to create a state commission to develop policy recommendations to end intergenerational poverty has been forwarded to the Utah Senate.

The Senate Economic Development and Workforce Development Committee voted unanimously Monday to give the bill a favorable recommendation.

The proposed commission would be made up of the executive directors of the state departments of health, human services and workforce services, as well as the state superintendent of instruction and the juvenile court administrator.

The commission would collaborate on policy recommendations to "help children escape the consequences of intergenerational poverty," said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, sponsor of SB53.

The bill also would create an advisory committee of representatives of faith organizations, child advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations to assist the commission.

Representatives of Voices for Utah Children, Utahns Against Hunger and the Sutherland Institute, a conservative Utah-based think tank, urged support of the bill.

Karen Crompton, executive director of the child advocacy organization Voices for Utah Children, said the advisory committee would bring "a lot of diverse viewpoints" to the table.

"This is really unique. People outside of Utah are looking to see where we go with this," Crompton said.

Geoff Landward, deputy director of the Department of Workforce Services, said the ongoing efforts to address the issue "has helped us to see the potential out there for real, impactful change."

The proposed commission would help develop "policy changes that make sense for our particular programs," Landward said.

Last year, Utah lawmakers passed a bill that requires the Department of Workforce Services to create a system to track intergenerational poverty data to identify at-risk children and to publish an annual report.

The report analyzed U.S. Census trends and DWS data of clients ages 21 to 40 who received public assistance between 1989 and 2008.

Researchers determined that nearly one-third of all people who received public assistance as children also participated in public assistance as adults.

Moreover, the more impoverished a person is during childhood, the more likely that person is to receive public assistance as an adult.

Some 364,822 people live in poverty in Utah, about 13.2 percent of the state's population, according to the report. Nearly 16 percent of the state's child population is considered impoverished.

Utah's poverty rate is lower than those of many other states, though the numbers of individuals in poverty has steadily risen since 2000.