Report: Pandemic's Ripple Effects Had Big Impact on Low-Income Ohioans

click to enlarge Medicaid expansion is key to public health outcomes for Ohioans - AdobeStock
Medicaid expansion is key to public health outcomes for Ohioans

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The number of Ohio residents living in poverty was trending down before the pandemic, but advocates in Ohio emphasized there is more work to be done to pull ahead of the national rate.

This year's State of Poverty in Ohio report from the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies displayed the tangible effects the pandemic had on Ohioans statewide.

It showed episodic poverty should have more attention. According to past research, 35% of Ohio households don't have enough liquid assets to safely live at the poverty level for three months if they were to lose their income.

Philip Cole, executive director of the association, said the COVID ripple effects such as unemployment have hit many residents hard.

"They lose a job, they fall victim to a recession, they get high medical expenses," Cole outlined. "And that has shown us again this great inequality between lower-income and higher-income families, and we are seeing, if we want to admit or not, this rapidly increasing two-class society, and we really need to work on that."

The report also looked at how access to health care, including Medicaid expansion, is key to improving public-health outcomes for Ohio residents. Among of Ohio households making less than 50,000 dollars per year, 39% said they delayed medical care because of the pandemic. Ohio's Medicaid expansion was reported to have saved more than 1,400 lives between 2014 and 2017.

With the report, the association will soon be rolling out a new wellbeing dashboard, which will document a county-by-county breakdown of poverty in the state based on factors such as unemployment and four-year graduation rates.

The lowest-ranking counties in the state include Ashtabula County, which borders Pennsylvania and Canada, and rural Noble County in the southeast portion of the state.

Cole pointed out looking at how socioeconomic factors play out in disadvantaged counties could be helpful in guiding policy changes.

"If your four-year high school graduation rate is on par with the rest of the state, say, but if your unemployment rate is really high, those kids are probably going to be leaving the county in order to find a job," Cole observed. "So we've got to come up with ways to create more opportunities."

Cole added some ways to alleviate poverty and spur economic growth include relieving student debt and making certification programs such as cosmetology more affordable and accessible.
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