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article imageOp-Ed: Gov. Strickland Making Ohio Poverty Top Issue

By Samantha A. Torrence     Jun 1, 2008 in Lifestyle
Gov. Ted Strickland is concerned about the growing gap between Ohio's rich and poor. He has formed a comittee to see what the statec can do to help poor families.
As of April the unemployment rate in Ohio was 5.6 percent. That means that 5.6 percent of people collecting unemployment or classified as employable and looking for a job. Underemployment as it is classified is much higher. However the real telling numbers come in poverty rates.
In Trumbull County Ohio, where I was born, raised, and live, poverty is at 11.5 per cent as of 2005. This rate is measured by the federal poverty rate. Many people have questioned if the poverty rate has raised in appropriate proportion to the rise in costs.
Let's put this in perspective.
In 2005 the federal poverty rate was set at $19,874 for a four person household. In 2007 the federal poverty rate was set at $21,100. That is a raise of $1,226 in two years or 6 percent. In one year groceries have raised 5% in price. On a personal note, a loaf of bread I used to buy for 50 cents ( Value Time at Giant Eagle) now costs 69 cents, a raise of 19 cents or a 38 percent increase. The cost of gas has risen. Natural Gas through Dominion East Ohio, the most used gas company in Ohio, were $8.948 Ccf in May of 2007 for GRC and raised to $12.720 Ccf in May 2008 for GRC. Yes that is a rise of about $3.77 or 42 per cent. Petroleum to fill up our cars and lawnmowers ( hey if you don't mow your lawn you get fined $200 and who can afford that?!) went from $2.27 a gallon in 2005 to the current $3.95 a gallon. You do the math, all of this does not add up. Only a 6 per cent increase in the federal poverty rate, but here on Ohio our prices have raised far more than a measly 6 per cent. Even those above the heavily manipulated federal poverty rate are still struggling to stay current on all of their bills, afford food, and pay all of their utilities. The current Federal Poverty Rate does not accurately reflect the state of America, it does however show how much the numbers are manipulated to make it look "not as bad as it could be."
The current minimum wage is $7 an hour, which means a person lucky enough to get full time employment will make $15,680 a year before taxes. Somehow for a family of four if two people are working at minimum wage, you are no longer considered in the poverty rate, but good luck affording your house payment ( there was a 23.6 percent raise in foreclosure filings in Ohio from 2005-2006), or your gas bill, or your utility bills, as well as buying food, health insurance, emergency expense, car payments, insurance on house and car, taxes, need I go on?
Yes, it is a problem, and it seems Gov. Ted Strickland wants to take this seriously. I am glad he turned out to be a better Gov than I had predicted. He is really trying to step up and help us in a time of need. Whether he succeeds or not is waiting to be seen, but I give him full praise for trying. After all he is one man trying to steer the course of many, and mostly a bunch of pig headed politicians that would not know poverty if it bit them in the... yeah.
Strickland has put together a task force for the sole purpose of finding ways to change state policy and budget.
The Community Research Partners for the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies released a report on Wednesday that suggests some things that can be done. They include better coordination of existing programs and reducing bureaucracy, giving local agencies greater flexibility to address needs in their areas and teaching financial literacy in the schools.
The Community Research Partners are correct, better coordination of existing programs and a reduction in bureaucracy would be increasingly beneficial to all involved.
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