Public policies that will improve the well-being of Utah families. 

Every child deserves a bright future. United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL) and Promise Partnership Utah know advocating for policies that catalyze systemic change is essential to creating conditions that make it possible for all children and families to thrive.  

We are excited to present our public policy priorities for Utah’s 2024 General Legislative Session, which runs from January 16 to March 1.  

High-Quality Preschool (School Readiness Program) 

To support greater gains in academic achievement, behavioral health, and long-term educational attainment, our top priority this session is advocating for changes to our state’s school readiness program.  

Over the past decade, UWSL and Promise Partners have advocated to expand access to preschool in our state. We started in 2014, alongside many of you, by working to pass Utah’s first preschool legislation with the objective of increasing school readiness for students experiencing poverty and other barriers to success in school.  

We need to continue innovating to make our state’s preschool program accessible to more low-income children and families, and to ensure kids are entering elementary school ready to learn. The current statute needs to be modernized to reduce administrative burdens, standardize what it means for a program to be high quality, and emphasize the purpose of school readiness.  

Research shows that investments in early childhood interventions are an effective use of public funds and save money on costly, less effective interventions down the road. Children who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs are less likely to repeat a grade, more likely to graduate from high school, and become higher earners in the workforce.  

That’s why we will advocate increasing the state’s investment in the School Readiness Program and amend the current statute; bringing it back to its original intent of increasing educational outcomes.  

Promise Community Schools 

We have established bold goals to ensure every child in Utah is ready for school, does better in school, and can be successful in life. Promise Partnership is working to prove that it is possible to transform schools and achieve strong outcomes regardless of zip code by aligning efforts to make a greater impact. To be successful, programs and the people running them must have the mindset that every student can succeed, and we must all work together towards that vision.  

Significant investments are required to support this work. We are working with Senator Fillmore on a bill that will create a pilot program of at least five years for local education agencies, backbone organizations, and municipalities that partner together to achieve a shared goal of 100% of students graduating from high school on a career path. We know that investing in this strategy leads to dramatically improved outcomes along the cradle-to-career continuum.  

Childcare Access and Affordability 

Childcare is a two-generation workforce issue: essential to support the workforce of today and vital to develop our workforce of tomorrow. In Utah and across the nation childcare is in market failure. Families are struggling to afford quality childcare and childcare providers are struggling to keep staff and their doors open.  

Untapped Potential in Utah, an economic impact study produced by UWSL and many of our partners, found that Utah’s economy loses $1.6 billion annually due to a lack of affordable childcare. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Utah has received nearly $600 million in emergency federal funds to ensure the childcare sector could continue to serve families. That funding will be gone by next summer, which means parents and childcare providers are facing an unprecedented fiscal cliff. Many childcare programs are already being faced with difficult decisions like closure or laying off employees. Every program that closes means childcare will be less accessible and more expensive for families. 

This session, we are working with our partners, Voices for Utah Children, to push legislation that will increase access to and affordability of childcare, support childcare professionals, and stabilize and strengthen the childcare sector. 

Child Tax Credit 

Last year, the legislature passed a narrow state child tax credit (CTC) for families with children who are one to three years old. The credit is applied on a sliding scale, with a possibility of one household being eligible for up to $1,000. The credit is nonrefundable, which means that if you don’t owe any income taxes, you won’t benefit from the tax credit.  

Recent studies on Utah’s CTC estimate that only about 2% of families will receive the credit and would only save an average of $328 per year on their income taxes. Since the tax credit is not refundable, no family will receive the full benefit of $1,000 per child. Families in the lowest income bracket will not benefit from the tax credit at all. Check out a great explainer here. 

While establishing a CTC was a very important step, in order to best support families, the CTC must be refundable and cover children from age zero to at least five years old.  

211 Utah 

211 Utah has been providing excellent information and referral services for decades. In recent years, it has become clear that we need to better connect people to services with practices that include warm handoffs and systems navigators. The social service system is difficult to navigate, especially for people who may be in crisis. By providing navigators, we can ensure community needs are being met and the overall system is operating more efficiently.  

This session, UWSL will advocate for additional investment in 211 Utah to better facilitate access to basic needs services.

Safeguarding Medicaid 

Medicaid is a program that provides free or low-cost health coverage to eligible, low-income individuals and families. It allows Utah’s most vulnerable populations to access life-saving medication and care that supports their well-being.  

This session, UWSL will support legislation aimed at protecting Utahns’ access to Medicaid, improving program quality and efficiency, streamlining the application and eligibility verification process, and modernizing the workflow process of the state agency that administers the program.  

We hope you’ll join us on the Hill this session to encourage your legislators to put families first by supporting these critical issues and continuing to build on investments made in recent years.