Do you care about reducing child homelessness in Utah? Would you like to help educate candidates for local office about things they can do to reduce child homelessness? Is your faith community planning to collect diapers and/or included prayers for homeless children during a worship service in October as part of Ending Child Homelessness Sabbath?
The quarterly meetings of the Coalition of Religious Communities in Salt Lake and Weber Counties will focus on coordinating these two things so our message reaches the largest number of people possible.
The Salt Lake County quarterly meeting will take place at Holladay United Church of Christ from noon to 1:00 PM on July 30, 2019. The Weber County meeting will take place two days later on August 1, 2019, from noon to 1:00 PM at First United Methodist Church of Ogden.
Planning for Ending Child Homelessness Sabbath and talking to candidates about Pledge to help reduce child homelessness
by Bill Tibbitts, Associate Director
There are many concerns and criticisms of the Medicaid waiver application that Utah's Department of Health is currently accepting public comment on. This waiver application asks the federal government to fully implement SB 96, which the Utah Legislature passed earlier this year in order to scale back the Medicaid expansion proposition that was approved by Utah voters in November of last year.
One big problem with SB 96 and this waiver implementing it, is that it asks the Trump administration to approve changes to Medicaid that have been explicitly rejected by Congress. Separation of powers is fundamental principle of the United States Constitution. Congress is supposed to write the laws and the Executive Branch of government is supposed implement the laws as written. Congress can delegate finalizing the details of legislation at the administrative level but the Executive Branch cannot use its ability to write administrative rules that overrule decisions made by the Legislative Branch.
SB 96 includes several ideas that have been rejected by Congress. The biggest of these ideas is imposing a "per capita cap" on federal Medicaid spending that would sever the connection between federal Medicaid spending and healthcare costs-- which have consistently been growing faster than inflation. The idea of capping increases to federal Medicaid spending at a lower rate has been championed by Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Newt Gengrich and Paul Ryan but Congress has consistently rejected their proposals-- in a large part because the majority of Governors have opposed the idea.
Given how clearly and consistently Congress has voted against this idea, the Trump administration cannot claim the decision about how Medicaid funding is structured is something Congress intended to delegate to the Executive Branch. This makes it likely that a decision to approve Utah's waiver application will be successfully overturned in court.
Our biggest concern with the per capita cap proposal is that if it is implemented it will make our state government solely responsible for determining how to react to the escalating costs of healthcare. If future governors and state legislators fail to find a way to slow the growth of costs then they will have to choose whether they wish to cut services, reduce eligibility, cut provider rates, raise taxes or increase premiums and copayments for Utahns in poverty. The fact that the Legislature passed SB 96 tin a year in which they seriously discussed cutting taxes by over $200 million suggests which of these options are most likely to be adopted if current legislators are still in office five years from now..
Aside from these long term concerns, there are more immediate reasons why states show not be applying to experiment with per capita caps. If the per capita cap is approved by the feds, and not overturned by the courts, then we have entered into an era in which Congress is irrelevant to questions of healthcare policy. That means that if a new President is elected next year we have the risk that this year's approval will be withdrawn in an abrupt and arbitrary way. It is unwise for our state to volunteer to be on the leading edge of something that unpredictable.
Medicaid saves and changes lives. It makes it possible for people to receive the surgery they need to return to the workforce. It gives people with chronic health conditions like diabetes a way to obtain the healthcare and medication they need to manage those conditions. Our state's economy is booming and so we are able to invest in the health and well being of the people of our state without experimenting with untested and unwise funding mechanisms.
Efforts to reduce child homelessness in Utah will fail if they are based on the assumption that every homeless parent is able to work the 79 hours per week necessary to be able to consistently afford an apartment while earning the minimum wage. More than one out of every five homeless parents has a disability. That is 2.6 times higher than the rate for the general parent population and 1.5 times the rate for all adults with children in families with incomes under the poverty level. This should not be surprising. People with disabilities deal with economic stresses that others do not face.
Unfortunately, the economic stresses of caring for a child with disabilities also increases the risk that an entire family will become homeless. 21 percent of children identified as experiencing homelessness by their school have a disability-- over 60 percent higher than the 13 percent for the general student population. (Get more facts about disability status and child homelessness on page 4 of this report).
The Coalition of Religious Communities is currently challenging candidates and elected officials to sign the Pledge to help reduce child homelessness. The reason the Pledge talks about the need for more permanent supportive housing for families is that housing with on-site case management and other services is what some parents with disabilities need to provide a stable environment for their children. The reason the Pledge talks about the need to produce and preserve more housing that is affordable and appropriate for families is that other parents with disabilities may not need services where they live but they are unlikely to ever be able to earn enough money to afford an apartment that costs $2,000 a month. It is important that we find ways to build and preserve more multi-bedroom housing that costs $800 or $1,000 per month so that children do not become homeless because their parents are unable to earn enough to afford the housing available in many cities in Utah.
Sign the pledge to reduce child homelessness in Salt Lake County: Coalition of Religious Communities is asking clergy, congregations, community organizations, candidates and elected officials to support reducing child homelessness
Pledge to help reduce child homelessness in Salt Lake County
Child homelessness is a problem too big to ignore but small enough to be solved if all sectors of our community come together to address it.
The first year of life is the time a person living in the United States is most likely to be homeless. The age group with the second highest incidence of homelessness is children between the age of one and five years old. A growing body of research shows that homelessness is a traumatic experience that negatively impacts children's health and development. The negative impacts of homelessness on childhood wellbeing increase as the length of homelessness increases. Our community has the ability to reduce the number of nights children spend in homeless shelters.
Where we are now
1,534 children under the age of 18 lived at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake County in 2018. Several hundred more spent at least one night at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. 51 percent of families with children that enter a homeless shelter leave within a month. 32 percent leave between one month and three months. 13 percent stay for between 3 months and 6 months. Only one percent of homeless families stay in a shelter for nine months or more.
1. Increase the number of apartments low income families can afford by producing new units and preserving existing affordable housing that is safe and appropriate for families with children.
2. Increase the number of permanent supportive housing units available for the most vulnerable homeless families.
3. Increase the income of families who experience homelessness by connecting parents to adult education and job training and providing the support parents need to benefit from these opportunities.
4. Increase access to childcare so that parents have a safe, caring place for their children to learn and grow while they are earning money or working to increase their income capacity.
I/We pledge to help educate others in our community about child homelessness and to support solutions that will help reduce child homelessness.
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