Kostyu: Holes growing in safety net

Cincinnati Enquirer - May 25, 2012
Paul Kostyu

Many Ohioans are unable to meet their family needs despite hard work, according to a recent report that finds a tattered social contract in need of updating.

The report released this month by Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning non-profit policy research organization based in Cleveland, concluded that if Ohio families are to meet their own needs, more has to be done through their own hard work and government policy to provide opportunity and security.

“Too many working Ohioans cannot make ends meet,” said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters. “Many jobs no longer cover the essentials for a family, and fewer options are available for those who lose jobs and need short-term help.”

The organization surveyed 150 non-profit organizations serving more than 100,000 Ohio families. It also surveyed 2,000 northeast Ohioans who needed help.

Among the findings:

• Caseloads increased by an average of 60 percent from 2008 through 2011, with the largest increases among providers of emergency food and shelter

• Organizations added staff, demanded more of existing staff and turned clients away.

• Clients skipped health care, rent payments or meals, exhausted savings, got rid of vehicles, borrowed money and left children unattended because child care was not available or affordable when they worked.

• Of the Ohioans surveyed, 92 percent were employed, but 80 percent earned $30,000 or less. Three in five could not get health care through employers or Medicaid.

“Ohio families are struggling despite working, and our review of policy found deep retrenchments in the social contract,” said Hanaurer. “If we want our communities, economy and families to thrive, we will have to ensure that either work or policy does more to bring about opportunity and security.”

The report follows an April study by the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks and the Coalition of Human Needs that said proposed federal budget cuts will negatively impact Ohio children, families and workers.

Kostyu: Holes growing in safety net

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