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Despite Dip in Poverty Numbers, 1.5 Million Ohioans Struggle

A new report says 14 percent of all Ohio households struggle to afford food. (@debb_a/Twenty20.com)
A new report says 14 percent of all Ohio households struggle to afford food. (@debb_a/Twenty20.com)
October 24, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Buckeye State is making modest gains in reducing its poverty rate, but millions of Ohioans still struggle to make ends meet.

According to the Ohio Poverty Snapshot released this week, 1.5 million people in the state remain in poverty and 3.5 million are considered near that level.

The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network released the report along with the Coalition on Human Needs.

In 66 percent of impoverished families, said Erin Ryan, managing director of the policy network, one or two people worked at least part-time, and yet 14 percent of all households have trouble paying for food.

"There's still a lot of households that are still not able to get the support that they need," she said. "Public policy doesn't match the realities of some of our workforce, specifically women, in recognizing the dual roles that they play as caregivers and as breadwinners for their families."

Women are the primary or co-breadwinners in about two-thirds of Ohio families. The poverty rate in Ohio was 14 percent in 2017, down from 14.6 the year prior. The national poverty rate in 2017 was 13.4 percent.

Housing costs also are a burden for many families, said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. She noted that 56 percent of low-income Ohioans spend more than half of their budget on rent.

"This is making everything harder for families," she said. "Even the people who are near-poor are struggling a tremendous amount to pay for all necessities once they deal with their rent costs every month."

The report said communities of color, children and people with disabilities continue to be disproportionately poor. Ryan contended that anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid and food assistance are crucial supports, particularly for low-income women, women of color and in rural areas.

"When we don't take that gender lens or that racial lens to looking at how different populations are impacted by policies," she said, "we're really missing the full picture of what the policy is and how it impacts Ohioans."

Ohio ranks 18th among states for the highest percentage of people in poverty.

The Ohio Poverty Snapshot is online at chn.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH