A recent study by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program proved what many of us already know — that the number of working poor has increased in urban and suburban areas during the 2000s.
Nowhere do we see this problem reflected more than at Summit County's Department of Job and Family Services. Any of our case managers will tell you that the number of middle-class people they are seeing has jumped, especially in the past few years.
They can tell you stories about people out of work or underemployed who are struggling to meet the basic needs of their families with little hope in sight. Thankfully, for those who meet the eligibility criteria, we can provide services that can provide education and assistance with child care, Medicaid, senior services and cash assistance, to name just a few.
Many of our citizens are unaware of the services available through these programs.
I recently have been hosting a series of community meetings, called Bridging the Gap. These forums provide Summit County residents with an opportunity to meet with staff one-on-one in their communities and to get the information about educational programming, job opportunities and services they need.
As the Akron Beacon Journal reported in its Reclaim the Dream articles, the foreclosure crisis is one that can affect all of our citizens. In April, the county partnered with the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority on a foreclosure prevention pilot program. This program was such a success that we recently entered into a full contract with AMHA to continue to assist and educate those who might face mortgage foreclosure.
Eligible citizens who are at risk of losing their homes because of predatory lending, financial mismanagement or job loss will be offered a full range of housing services. One-time mortgage rescue funds of up to $5,000 also will be available.
Home ownership is the American Dream.
The county is able to assist middle-class families with purchasing, retaining and improving their homes through its Community and Economic Development department. The Housing Rehabilitation Program offers up to $25,000 in low-interest loans to low- and moderate-income families for home improvement.
The First Home First Loan Program allows first-time home buyers to obtain a down payment assistance loan that matches 3-to-1 the amount paid by the home buyer.
Summit County also contracts with several nonprofit organizations to use federal and county funds to purchase and rehabilitate homes for low- to moderate-income families and to provide foreclosure counseling. The county is able to fund community and quality-of-life improvements that benefit everyone in low to moderate neighborhoods by distributing federal Community Development Block Grants.
Unfortunately, some veterans also are finding it harder to achieve and retain the American Dream that they fought hard to protect. It is crucial that we continue to deliver any necessary assistance to our veterans and their families.
Earlier this year, the county broke ground on a new Veterans Services Commission building. This new building will be accessible for all veterans in Summit County and serve as a place for those veterans to both enroll in and receive myriad assistance programs designed to help them and their families get back on their feet.
We all know that you must have a job to live the American Dream. That job needs to support a family, provide a home and good health care.
The Job Center offers employment and training services. Services are delivered through a one-stop system with many service agencies at one community location.
Keeping jobs in our community and creating new jobs for our citizens is a crucial part of the American Dream. I am proud that I was part of the team that kept Goodyear and Bridgestone Firestone in Summit County, and I will continue to work to keep and create more jobs so that we can all enjoy the American Dream.
Russell M. Pry is Summit County executive.