Even though Ohio’s population has remained stagnant over the last decade, poverty increased by nearly 58 percent, a new report says.
The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies issued its State of Poverty 2012 report Wednesday showing that 1 in 6 — or 1.8 million — Ohioans are living below the federal poverty line.
“The solutions never change and that’s what gets me,” said Philip Cole, executive director of the Columbus association.
The four main keys to fixing the problem, he said, are creating well-paid jobs; improving education, including the affordability of college; providing affordable housing; and offering reliable transportation.
The 52-page State of Poverty report, which relies on census and other demographic data, is filled with sobering statistics and personal stories. Among them:
• Ohio’s poverty rate of 16.4 percent in 2011 exceeds the nationwide average of 15.9 percent. Ohio ranks 31st among all states.
• The number of people living below the poverty line rose 69.9 percent in suburban counties over the last decade, outpacing the growth in other areas.
• Ohio’s median hourly wage grew 2.9 percent over the last decade. Meanwhile, a gallon of gas costs 75.3 percent more and tuition at a four-year public college increased 63.4 percent.
• A family of four in poverty lives on about $1,900 a month.
• The number of children in poverty grew by 232,199 over the last decade, but there are 189,158 fewer children than 10 years earlier. A third of those living in poverty are children.
Mark Frisone, executive director of Family & Community Services in Ravenna, wasn’t surprised by the findings.
His agency saw a 46 percent increase in new individuals seeking food last year at its sites throughout Portage County.
“Economy, economy, economy,” he said as the reasons for the increase.
He stressed that it’s not just those unemployed who are hurting. It’s people who are working hard — as hard as they ever have — but their hours have been cut or their family has gone from having two wage earners to one, he said.
“That’s the face of poverty we’re confronted with every day,” he said. “They just can’t make enough money.”
Senior citizens also are a growing poverty segment. Because of a lack of income, they are being forced to choose among food, prescription drugs and utilities, Frisone said.
Government leaders must do a better job addressing poverty, Cole said.
He added that a bump in manufacturing jobs and the Utica shale boom in the state should help.
To read the full poverty report, go to: www.oacaa.org.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.