Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 2008: More Utahns living in poverty

Posted on

Utah’s poverty rate is inching up, though it remains significantly below the national average, according to data released by the Utah Community Action Partnership Association on Wednesday.
According to the group’s annual poverty report, 10.6 percent of Utahns now live below the poverty level, which is an income of $21,200 for a family of four. The percentage is based on 2006 census survey data, the most recent available.
By contrast, 13.3 percent of Americans were living in poverty during the same year.
The nonprofit’s annual poverty report rounds up data about the state’s low income population, along with its recommendations on how to combat poverty in Utah.
Despite the rising poverty rate, Utah in 2005-2006 had one of the lowest participation rates in the federal school breakfast program, which is geared toward low-income families. That worries anti-hunger advocates who are not convinced all children are eating at home.
“Our suspicion is they are not,” said Gina Cornia, the executive director of Utahns Against Hunger. “They’re going to school hungry.”
Between April 2007 and April 2008, the number of Utahns receiving food stamps went up by just over 9 percent or 11,650 people.
An analysis of housing costs found that 38 percent of renters can’t afford a two-bedroom unit without dippingpageid=65211496into income needed for food and other expenses, according to 2007 data. A Utahn earning minimum wage, now at $5.85 an hour, is estimated to need more than two jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
“The ultimate solution is we need to have good jobs,” said Heather Tritten, the UCAPA executive director.
Officials pointed to a free tax preparation effort as a means of enriching average Utahns. In 2008, volunteers helped nearly 4,000 residents receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which UCAPA would like to also have available at the state level.
With the help of the volunteers, this year $5.3 million came back to Utahns, an 11 percent increase from the year before.
“Our whole idea behind that is they would use that money to build assets,” she said. “Often times that’s the difference between people who survive a crisis and people who fall into poverty.”

* To read the report, visit

« Back to News