Basic necessities are struggle for Ohioans

Staff, wire

WARREN — Two in five Ohio households are struggling to come up with enough resources to provide basic necessities, according to a United Way study released Wednesday.

“Our role is to provide useful information to policymakers and policy shapers, and to kind of be the conveners of public discussion on the possible solutions to the concerns raised by the report,” Ohio United Way president and CEO Steven Hollon said.

Ohio’s is the 15th state report the United Way has released on the subject nationally. It found that nearly 1.8 million Ohio households have difficulty covering a “household survival budget” of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care. The figures are based on 2015 data.

Fourteen percent of Ohio households live in poverty. Another 26 percent fall into the growing category of working-poor households that the United Way dubs “ALICE,” an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. These are households that live above the federal poverty level, but earn less than the basic cost of living for the county.

In Trumbull County, Warren has the highest percentage — 63 — of people living in poverty or who qualify as ALICE. However, Warren also has the highest number of households at 17,398, according to a chart provided by United Way. Next highest on the list is Warren Township at 52 percent and Weathersfield and Brookfield, both at 49 percent.

The lowest percentage is in Greene at 23 percent, but it also has the fewest number of households at 397.

The figures show the median household income in Trumbull County is $42,368 — well below the state average of $51,075. They also show that 18 percent of Trumbull County residents live in poverty and an additional 28 percent live at ALICE level.

Ginny Pasha, executive director of the United Way of Trumbull County, said she was not surprised by the numbers.

“We know based on the reports and requests we get for funding that the need clearly exists,” Pasha said.

She said whenever a study like this comes out, people focus on the poverty and unemployment numbers, but ALICE is a number people rarely talk about. She said the ALICE population used to be called the “working poor.”

“These are families who work hard to make ends meet, but are struggling to save money for emergency expenses,” Pasha said. “I believe the proliferation of payday lending businesses is tied to this data. These people have no place to turn. They are above the threshold to receive federal help, but they are one major car repair or one broken refrigerator away from homelessness.”

In Mahoning County, Youngstown has the highest percentage — 70 — of people living in poverty or who qualify as ALICE. However, Youngstown also has the highest number of households at 26,731. The next highest is 63 percent in Campbell, which only has 3,465 households, according to the report. The lowest percentage is in Poland Township at 23 percent with 5,682 households.

The combined percentage of people living in poverty or at ALICE leval stands at 50 percent or higher in 11 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The study found that 67 percent of Ohio jobs pay less than $20 an hour. They can include cashiers, child care workers, food service personnel, librarians, bank tellers, health care aides, repair technicians, landscapers and auto mechanics.

Hollon said United Way plans to provide copies of the report to members of the Ohio General Assembly, statewide elected officials, boards of county commissioners and others.

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