According to an annual report released by the State of Utah and the Community Action Partnership of Utah, Emery County has only experienced a one percent increase in the number of individuals living in poverty, while Utah as a whole increased 17 percent.
However, Emery County's poverty rate of 11 percent remains higher than the state's rate of 10 percent. The 2009 Annual Report on Poverty in Utah documents statistics and factors as to why the number of families in poverty fluctuates.
"This is the first time in decades that Utah is seeing families who have lived in the middle class for their entire lives teeter on the poverty line," said CAP Utah Executive Director Heather Tritten. "This is a frightening experience, especially for those families who have always been self-sufficient, as they try to figure out how to keep their house, feed their kids, and compete for the few jobs that are available."
One key finding from CAP Utah's report is how poverty has infiltrated Utah's middle and working class families. In 2007, more than 250,000 people, or 10 percent of all Utah residents, lived below the poverty level; additionally, 91,000 or 11 percent of all Utah children lived below the poverty level. Fourteen percent of children in Emery County live in poverty.
A January 2009 assessment of Utah's nine Community Action agencies, which help impoverished families get back to full, quality employment, showed 61 percent of people seeking services were doing so for the first time ever.
Utah's unemployment rate jumped 58 percent in 2008 to just above five percent, which is the same rate for Emery County.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services has seen a 195 percent increase in initial filings for unemployment insurance benefits since 2008. Another indicator of Utah's poverty levels is the change in food stamp caseloads. Although Utah has seen a 30 percent rise in food stamp caseloads, Emery County has only seen an 11 percent increase.
CAP Utah and State of Utah experts believe that several factors have caused the rise of poverty in Utah. First, Utah's average wage is 80 percent of the national wage, which is the 37th lowest in the nation. Utah also has the nation's second lowest per-capita income at $30,291 as compared with the national average of $36,751.
"Families are facing additional difficulties due to increasing healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and this is contributing to families looking at poverty for the first time," Tritten said. "Over the last decade, the portion of premiums paid by Utah families increased 73 percent and their portions of premiums increased 98 percent. This contributes to the fact that 67 percent of our state's uninsured are actually working families."
As a result of Congress passing the stimulus package, CAP Utah was able to receive grants in an effort to improve emergency housing services allowing people to remain stable in their homes while they look for employment or recover from a crisis.
The state will also continue to work with CAP and county organizations to increase programs serving homeless populations. Work programs, training opportunities and access to education will be improved and expanded. Utah's Community Action Agencies will be increasing services, putting a new focus on job creation and training.
"Although our goal of reducing poverty is daunting, we can make great strides by working together," Tritten said. "The Poverty Report helps communities become aware about the challenges facing so many Utah families. But the most important step is becoming engaged in making a difference."
The full 2009 Annual Report on Poverty in Utah is available online at www.caputah.org.The 2009 Poverty Report
Who is in Poverty?
* 10.3 percent of Utahns lived below the poverty level in 2007. This equates to a total of 254,385 people.
* 11.3 percent of children in Utah lived below the poverty level in 2007. This equates to a total of 91,064 children. Most of the children who live in poverty have parents that work.
* 27.2 percent of female-headed households with children lived in poverty in 2007.
* In 2007, at least 26.8 percent of Utahns did not have enough savings to exist at the poverty level for three months without a job. As our economy continues to be unstable, this number will grow, as many Utahns will, for the first time, experience asset poverty.
* Utah has the 11th highest percentage of women who work part-time and the lowest percent of women who work full time; 72 percent of all part-time workers in Utah are female. This means many single, working mothers don't receive health, retirement or sick or maternity leave benefits. In addition, Utah is one of 23 states that do not offer unemployment insurance to part-time workers that are laid off, which greatly affects women in Utah.
* Three Utah counties - Daggett, Sanpete and San Juan - are ranked in the nation's top 100 poorest counties.
* In 2008, Utah's unemployment rate jumped 57.6 percent , the biggest jump that Utah has had in its 113-year history.
* Initial filings for unemployment insurance benefits in Utah have increased 195 percent over the past year.
* Utah Department of Workforce Services saw a 66 percent increase in the number of job seekers it served over the past year.
* This year, 61 percent of clients at Utah's Community Action Agencies were seeking services for the first time ever. This shows poverty is moving into the middle class.
Housing, Foreclosures, and Homelessness
* 33 percent of Utah homeowners spend more than one third of their income on their mortgage and have struggled to make their payments over the last year.
* Utah's bankruptcy rate has increased 44.9 percent over the past year.
* 28 percent of Utahns are renters, 42 percent of which spend more than one third of their income on rent.
* Fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $736. A household must earn $29,459 per year or $14.16 per hour to afford fair market rent or must work 2.2 jobs (86 hours per week, 52 weeks per year) at minimum wage to afford fair market rent.
* There is a shortage of 30,988 affordable units available to extremely low-income Utahns.
* As of January 2009, there were 3,507 homeless men, women and children in Utah: an increase of 5.8 percent from 2008.
* Using the Department of Education's definition for homeless children, there were an estimated 10,388 homeless school children as of January 2009.
Poverty and Hunger
* Demand for emergency food has increased by more than 30 percent over the last year.
* Food stamp usage has increased by more than 30 percent in the 12 months from February 2008 to February 2009. It is estimated that 46 percent of Utah households that qualify for Food Stamps do not utilize the program.
* More than 30 percent of school-aged children in Utah rely on free or reduced-price school lunch.
* Prices for food prepared at home increased 6.4 percent in 2008.
* Over the past decade, the portion of health insurance premiums paid by Utah families increased by 73 percent and the individual's portion of premiums increased by 98 percent. Over the same time, the median income in Utah only increased by 10 percent.
* From 1996 to 2006, the number of Utah employers offering health insurance decreased by 8.7 percent, while nationally there was a 2.9 percent increase in employer coverage.
* 67 percent of uninsured Utahns were part of a working family in 2008.