Ohio Poverty Rate Rises 1.8 Percent

Athens Post Online - September 14, 2005

Athens Post Online

by Chris Yonker

Ohio’s poverty rate has increased despite positive gains in other aspects of the economy, according to a recently released report.

According to State of Working Ohio 2005, a report released by the non-profit state organization Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio’s poverty rate is up to 11.6 percent, an increase of 1.8 percent since 1980.

Amy Hanauer, Executive Director of Policy Matters Ohio, said median household income was down for the second year in a row and median hourly wages decreased for the fourth year.

The report stated this happened despite trends of increasing secondary education numbers (up 65 percent since 1979), productivity (up 78 percent since 1973) and hours worked by
two-parent families (up 18.4 percent since 1979).

The report also said the number of jobs in Ohio is 2.8 percent below where the state was when the recession began in March 2001. This means while there are fewer jobs in Ohio, the ones that exist are paying less on average.

Mark Rickel, spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft, said the focus in the state is to improve the economy through such programs as the Third Frontier Program, Public Works bonds and job-ready sites. Rickel said Ohio had more trouble during the recession than other states with the loss of many of its manufacturing jobs.

“The state didn’t come out as well as others did,” Rickel said. Athens County Job and Family Services media director, Tracy Gallway, said the poverty rate in Athens County was already higher than the national average. Gallway said the most recent federal census data from 2000 reported Athens County’s poverty rate at 28 percent,
and the number has probably gone up since the last census because of the number of manufacturing jobs lost in the county.

“If you look at the major companies that have left, they’ve been in manufacturing,” she said, citing examples such as the exits of The McBee Company and TS Trim Industries.

Gallway also said the Athens County Job and Family Services is attempting to push for better distribution of federal funds to help poverty-stricken families.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund, which is designed to help low-income families, is not doing its job correctly, Gallway said, because the fund currently has $600 million with no expected plans to spend the money.

Counties such as Athens County, who used all of their TANF money from the previous year and even used other counties’ excess funds to a total of $4.5 million, could really use the money, Gallway said.

“These families have to choose between their daily needs,” she said, “and they shouldn’t have to do that.”

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