Columbus Dispatch: Recovery Means Little to Poor

This article’s message is echoed resoundingly from Ashtabula County, whose poverty rate is nearly 18.7%, compared to Ohio’s 15.8% rate. Poverty rates for the Cities of Ashtabula and Conneaut stand much higher at 32.9% and 22.8% respectively, according to most recent U.S. Census data.

Columbus Dispatch Article

Lower unemployment has not helped Ohio’s poor escape poverty.

The state poverty rate of 15.8 percent last year was down slightly from 16 percent in 2013, according to new estimates released on Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nearly 1.8 million Ohioans lived in households with incomes at or below the federal poverty rate last year, which is about $20,000 for a family of three.

The data showed nearly 1 in 4 children — 580,000 youngsters — lived in poverty in Ohio, 36th among states. That was unchanged since 2013.

Advocates for the poor said at a Statehouse news conference that low-wage jobs and underemployment were to blame.

The state’s unemployment rate has sunk to 5 percent, and the household median wage in Ohio was $49,308, up from $48,807 in 2013. But the national median was $53,657, and Ohio ranked 36th among states.

“The data continue to show the struggles of Ohio’s families with rising costs and stagnant wages,” said Phil Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies.

Despite the end of the Great Recession, 1 in 4 Ohio households last year had total incomes of less than $25,000.

“The economic recovery has not reached everyone. For low- and middle-income households, things aren’t getting better,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

The census data also showed that African-Americans and Latinos were disproportionately living in poverty. In Ohio, 34.7 percent of African-Americans and 28 percent of Latinos lived in poverty last year. The rate for white, non-Hispanics was 12.2 percent.

There was some good news for Ohio. The number of people without health insurance fell to 8.4 percent last year, down from 11 percent in 2013. Advocates credited Ohio’s expansion of Medicaid and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

But to help poor Ohioans make ends meet, the advocates urged lawmakers to improve the state’s earned-income tax credit and child tax credit, remove work stipulations for food stamps and expand subsidized child care.

Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the state is trying to better target job-training funds for in-demand jobs.

“Eighty-five percent of training dollars need to be targeted on in-demand jobs. We don’t want classrooms being trained for jobs with few openings,” Johnson said, while acknowledging, “It won’t change overnight.”

Education continues to be a leading indicator of poverty. About 30 percent of Ohioans without a high-school diploma live in poverty compared with 4 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree.

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