Helping those in need • A recent survey gives the state of Utah good marks for the way it allows people who are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program to sign up for those assistance programs. A poll of nearly 500 households that filed to receive the aid indicated that a majority of them found the process understandable, had little trouble providing the documents to verify their eligibility and had their claims processed in times that ranged from a week to 30 days. And all of that was during a time when demand for the services was up, due to the recession, and the size of the Department of Workforce Services staff available to handle claims was down, due to state cutbacks. The whole process was even new to DWS, as it had recently had the function transferred to its portfolio. One downside is that the state continues to ignore the offer of federal grants that could help provide increased staff or other forms of assistance.
Some light on the subject • The bad news is that Salt Lake City has some 1,500 streetlights scattered around the community that are burned out or otherwise inoperative and, under current funding structures, no way to fix them. The good news is that support is reportedly building among City Council members to implement a small monthly fee say, $3.73 that would be dedicated to repairing and relighting streetlights. The plan is to phase out the fees now being paid by some special improvement districts, and fund a whole city's worth of night lighting through this fee. Higher taxes and fees are never fun. But streetlights are a basic local government function, and the past practice of relying on property and sales taxes which have been slumping in recent years due to the recession, and which don't collect from government buildings or nonprofit organizations such as churches has not kept up with the need. If this new funding mechanism is what it takes, then it should go forward.