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Poverty in the pandemic: Studies hope to help Utah families hit financially by COVID-19

On the Money NerdWallet Overdraft Fees
Posted at 8:57 PM, Oct 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 00:08:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Department of Workforce Services wants to use data to make a difference among Utahns experiencing intergenerational poverty.

The Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission has studied and monitored trends among low-income families for the last decade. The Utah Data Research Center recently published its latest report, diving into the impacts of the pandemic on wages and work for low-income Utah adults.

Utah Department of Workforce Services deputy director Nate McDonald hopes policymakers can use the data to improve state programs and services.

“What we’re doing is we’re monitoring the impacts to these individuals, these families and their children, and whether or not there are systemic problems,” he said.

McDonald said 38% of Utahns experiencing intergenerational poverty lost their job in the pandemic compared to 16% of workers in the general labor force.

He said that could be because people experiencing poverty are more likely to work in restaurants, retail and hospitality.

“Those are jobs that were more heavily impacted early on in the pandemic,” he explained.

Unemployment benefits and federal relief were a game-changer for families, with some seeing a higher income than years pre-COVID.

“The pandemic relief programs actually ended up helping several of these individuals and families more so than normal,” said McDonald.

Researchers discovered that those with a higher education were more protected financially during the pandemic. They also found that women are more likely to experience intergenerational poverty.

“That is a focus area for us to build work more and target and build help,” he said. “Help out in those areas.”

To read the 10th annual report on Utah intergenerational poverty, click here.

To read the Utah Data Research Center’s study on the impacts of the pandemic for adults experiencing intergenerational poverty, click here.