Columbus – The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies released its 2022 State of Poverty in Ohio report Tuesday.
OACAA helps agencies, like Step Forward, lead the fight against poverty statewide. For nearly 60 years, the association has assisted 48 agencies across the 88 counties to administer programs related to emergency services, early childhood and adult education, financial literacy, job training, housing initiatives and more.
Prior to the pandemic, statistics showed at least 1.7 million Ohioans were living in poverty. This recent report reveals Ohio’s poverty level is at 12.7 percent, which remains higher than the national average at 12.7 percent.
“The disparity between Ohio and the national average have been consistent for a long time,” OACAA’s , said. “So, while the poverty rate is going down at the state and federal levels, and that is encouraging, Ohio hasn’t been successful in closing the gap with the national average.”
The 2022 State of Poverty in Ohio Report analyzed credible data to determine poverty trends statewide. The association released the data, hoping it would provide insight into what poverty looks like for Ohioans and the barriers that have long prevented low-income households from overcoming financial burdens.
OACAA looked at four areas of focus, or barriers, when generating this report:
According to OACAA, there are now more jobs available than there are workers to fill them. Statewide, the association found there were more than 100,000 vacant positions than there were unemployed individuals.
OACAA’s Executive Director, Philip Cole, cited a lack of job training and a “misalignment” between jobs in high-growth sectors and the education level of the workforce. In other words, the people available to work available jobs did not meet the requirements to fill them.
“By 2025, 65 percent of the workforce will need a certified skill or a two to four year degree, while only 34 percent of the workforce meet the criteria,” the report stated.
The report also revealed this interesting statistic: due to inflation, the lowest-income workers – those working for minimum wage – were “functionally making less money” than they did in 1968. The report found a worker would need to make at least three dollars more per hour to reach a break-event point today.
Another reason many people have not returned to the workforce is due to a lack of affordable and available childcare. According to a survey done by the National Association of Education of Young Children, 60 percent of part-time or non-working mothers said they would go back to work if they could find reasonably-priced, quality childcare.
Working parents admit, finding childcare has been difficult and it’s no surprise why. Statistics showed 76 percent of childcare centers had experienced a staffing shortage recently. About 44 percent of the childcare centers ended up serving fewer children as a result.
Studies show many childcare workers have left the industry, largely due to a lack of pay. The average hourly wage for a childcare worker in Ohio came in at $10.67 per hour. That amount was well below the average hourly pay for others at $26.77 and well below the self-sufficiency wage for a family of four in Ohio.
Ohioans have also struggled to find affordable and available housing.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s annual data for Ohio showed a shortage of rental units for low-income families.
For those who own their home, about 67 percent reported being several cost-burdened, meaning they spent at least half of their income on housing-related costs. The data showed at minimum wage, a worker would need to work at least 72 hours a week to be able to afford a one-bedroom home in some areas. Out of the ten most common jobs statewide, only four paid enough for someone to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
“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,” Cole said. “The effects to the job market and rise in housing costs have especially impacted those making low wages.”
Student Loan Debt
Tuition rates have soared over the past 20 years. Data shows in-state public university tuition has increased 211 percent in the last two decades.
Ohio’s median income is $1,406 lower than the national median income, but the median student debt in Ohio is $1,637 higher than the national median.
Cole also indicated Ohio lags behind the national average in spending on need-based state grants. Other states spend $573 per full-time student, whereas Ohio, he said, spends $188. He called for an increase in funding.
How poverty in Cuyahoga County stacks up
In February, The Center for Community Solutions prepared the 2022 Needs Assessment for Step Forward. The data showed Cleveland was ranked worst among large cities for poverty and child poverty.