The recently passed American Rescue Plan provides the nation and the state of Utah with the financial resources to address the unmet needs of our children. The revenue and support for areas such as education, childcare and health care offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus on the needs of our youngest.
Utah has emerged from the depths of the pandemic with one of the strongest economies in the country as measured by metrics such as tax revenue, reserves and unemployment claims. We appreciate the work done by our elected leaders to keep our state on a positive economic trajectory.
However, not everyone has participated equally in the recovery, and it is our view that the gaps and flaws exposed in our social, economic, educational and health care systems should no longer be considered acceptable. Returning to normal should not mean returning to the way things were on the eve of the pandemic.
Voices for Utah Children launched the #investinutahkids campaign earlier this year to highlight areas that we needed to invest in as a state. We identified specific sectors where we were underfunded, areas where we did not have access for families, and programs that were not meeting the growing needs of our families.
The funding provided by the ARP combined with both our strong economy and the governor’s vision set forth in One Utah and the Utah Compact on Racial Equity creates the perfect opportunity to move boldly and effectively. This is the time to invest in Utah kids!
We can invest in early childhood programs to make sure that our children enter kindergarten socially and emotionally prepared to succeed. We can fund additional opportunities for full-day kindergarten for those families that would like this option for their child. We can offer more robust summer and after-school programs that will alleviate burdens on working families as well as allow our children to accelerate. We can create a system of community health workers who will reduce our child uninsured rate (among the highest in the nation) and improve outcomes for both children and families. We can pilot programs to make sure that all children have access to health insurance. We can offer support to our immigrant and refugee communities that provide the equity that they deserve.
And because the ARP funds are available through the end of 2024, we have three and a half years to maximize their impact by establishing pilot programs and testing new and innovative approaches.
We call on the leaders of our state at all levels to embrace this opportunity and to place our children at the forefront. The children of Utah make up 29% of our state and 100% of our future.
We are confident that the investments in our children that we make now will lead to a better future for all of us. Please contact your elected officials and let them know that you believe that now is the time to #investinutahkids!
Moe Hickey is executive director of Voices for Utah Children.