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01.31.2013 - Grim report on Ohio poverty holds hope of turnaround
Grim report on Ohio poverty holds hope of turnaround
January 31, 2013 Catherine Candisky
Many grim facts emerge from the "State of Poverty 2012" report showing the ravages of Ohio's economic downturn:
The number of Ohioans living in poverty — almost 2 million — would fill Ohio Stadium more than 17 times.
Often, employment doesn't matter; more than 42 percent with incomes below the federal poverty level had either full- or part-time jobs in 2011.
More than a third of Ohioans have household incomes below the amount they need to meet basic needs such as rent and food.
Education doesn't always make a difference: 1 in 12 Ohioans in poverty has a bachelor's degree or higher.
So why aren't there grim faces to match those gloomy numbers?
Because for the first time in years, those behind the biennial report released yesterday by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies expect the hard times faced by many across the state to improve.
"I'm optimistic," said Philip E. Cole, executive director of the association. "There's an uptick in manufacturing in the state and the great potential of (jobs from) Utica shale. We need to make sure we coordinate with these companies who will need skilled workers so we get people trained for the jobs."
In addition to jobs, ensuring educational opportunities for all Ohioans is key.
"Education is so important to getting out of poverty. We have to make sure college tuition is affordable," Cole said.
"I think when we look at these numbers two years from now, we will see a turnaround."
The annual report on poverty was released just days before Gov. John Kasich unveils his two-year state budget plan.
"I think we're on the same page," said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.
"We were in a deep, deep hole, and now we are up 120,000 jobs but have a long way to go. This budget, like the last budget, will be all about getting people back to work... when people have jobs, housing becomes more affordable and transportation more manageable. You've got to get people back to work."
Nichols declined to provide details, but Kasich's budget also will include a new school-funding plan and could call for an expansion of Medicaid, the state's health-care program for the poor and disabled, which would provide coverage to more working poor.
Still, the report showed that poverty remains a daunting problem in Ohio, with many parents working fewer hours for lower wages.
"Anytime I put some money aside, something happens," said Angie Strong, a 32-year-old home-health aide earning about $40,000 a year.
"There's nothing in my savings account."
She and her husband, who works in a factory building pallets, no longer can count on working 40 hours a week, making it difficult to care for their family of six children.
"Unless you come from money and have a college degree, you are going to run into money problems," Strong said.