COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly 15 percent of Ohioans lived at or below the federal poverty line in 2015, down from 16.4 percent in 2011, according to a new report.
The annual report from the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies highlights the 93,000 Ohioans who were caretakers for their grandchildren in 2015. About 22 percent of them lived in poverty.
Researchers don’t know exactly how many grandparents lived in poverty before gaining legal custody of grandchildren or how many became impoverished afterward, said Philip Cole, the association’s director.
The opioid crisis has contributed to grandparents becoming caregivers, Cindy Farson, the executive director of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, told The Columbus Dispatch.
The report also noted that at least a dozen colleges and universities in the state now provide free food pantries, including Ohio State University, Kent State University, the University of Akron and the University of Cincinnati. More than 400 campuses across the country have one now.
The figures reflect a steady rise in income inequity, the association said.
“The middle class is disappearing, and that’s not news but it’s real and it seems to be accelerating,” Cole told The Blade in Toledo. “We can’t be in denial anymore.”
Four out of 10 households in the state don’t have the liquid assets to keep out of poverty for three months, according to the report released last week. One in four doesn’t have the combined assets to cover living expenses and remain out of poverty for that long.
A single parent who has two children and works a minimum-wage job would have to work 109 hours every week to become self-sufficient, the report said. Minimum wage in the state is $8.15 an hour.
An unexpected bill or other crisis can hurtle families living near the poverty line into chaos, said Cheryl Grice, chief executive officer of Pathway Inc. The group helps provide heat and other services to residents in northwest Ohio’s Lucas County.
“A divorce can throw a woman and her children into a state of poverty,” she said. “They are so vulnerable. One episode can throw them right back into the lower rungs of poverty. That’s what we really want to avoid.”