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New Ohio poverty report highlights struggles in employment and child care in wake of COVID pandemic

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Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Philip Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, releases 2022 State of Poverty in Ohio report on September 13, 2022.

Ohio’s poverty rate is at 12.7% — 0.8% higher than the national rate — which researchers say has been a consistent trend for more than five years.

The rate is based on anyone below 100% of the federal poverty line, which for an individual is a yearly salary of $13,590.

The 2022 State of Poverty in Ohio report was released by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies and put together by the Strategic Research Group.

The report focuses of four areas: employment, child care, student loan debt, and housing.

Tina Kassebaum, project director with Strategy Research Group, said COVID-19 created big challenges for people in poverty who were already struggling.

“Our approach this year was to examine these efforts and how they all relate to one another. Because poverty is almost never the result of a singular issue. While many of these issues were a challenge to Ohioans, that Ohioans were facing before the pandemic, they have become much more difficult and complicated in the past few years,” said Kassebaum.

Philip Cole, executive director of OACAA, agreed that it is important to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among the other areas the study zeroed in on.

“As we adjust to the new lifestyle caused by the pandemic, it is imperative we remain aware of how the pandemic has created lasting challenges for low-income Ohioans," said Cole. “The effects to the job market and rise in housing costs have especially impacted those making low wages.”

But Cole said Ohio is on the verge of significant improvements for people in poverty with the arrival of the Intel semiconductor plant.

“We need to make sure that those opportunities are spread throughout Ohio and to all income groups. If that happens, we can see real improvement for our citizens as well as our economy,” said Cole.

Cole and Kassebaum said they hope policymakers, such as state legislators, will take a close look at their report in order to focus their efforts on ways to help people out of poverty.

The two said a good first step is to put more money into the higher education system in order to help Ohioans receive an education from colleges or career tech schools.

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