United Way: 2 in 5 Ohio households struggle to afford basics


COLUMBUS — Two in 5 Ohio households are struggling to come up with enough resources to provide basic necessities, according to a United Way study released Wednesday.

The study is part of a nationwide effort by the charitable organization to inform policy and budgetary debates by local and state governments and community-based organizations, said Ohio United Way president and CEO Steven Hollon.

“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,” he 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.

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.

The combined percentage stands at 50 percent or higher in 11 of Ohio’s 88 counties, most located in southeastern Ohio. Those are Noble, Morgan, Athens, Meigs, Vinton, Gallia, Marion, Jackson, Pike, Adams and Fayette.

“Oftentimes, whether they’re average citizens or well-informed policy people, (people) have a tendency to think it’s concentrated in cities,” he said. “In terms of total numbers, maybe. But, in terms of percentages, it’s perhaps more acute in the rural areas.”

The organization defines ALICE households as earning wages that are above the federal poverty level but still considered low.

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.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press

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