State must attack poverty

Improving the economy – providing more jobs – is the key to lifting individuals and families out of poverty. That has been made crystal clear during the last several years in Ohio.

Ohio’s poverty rate, 16.3 percent at last report, is more than three points higher than it was in 2007, before the Great Recession. That is no coincidence; many Buckeye State residents simply cannot find jobs. Many others work in low-wage positions that leave their families below the federal poverty level ($11,670 annual income for an individual, $23,850 for a family of four).

Recognizing more effective steps need to be taken to attack poverty, Gov. John Kasich has established a new state office devoted to welfare reform. The Office of Human Services Intervention is intended to provide services to the poor more effectively, while lowering the cost to taxpayers.

State and federal statistics make it plain that Ohio has a severe problem with poverty. For decades, the state’s poverty rate was lower than that for the nation as a whole. But that changed in 2008, with the federal rate now slightly lower than Ohio’s.

One approach HSI Director Douglas Lumpkin may want to consider is obtaining current statistics. Even state officials who released a report on poverty earlier this year relied on numbers no more recent than 2012.

Much has changed during the intervening two years. For one thing, the state’s unemployment rate has declined substantially.

Kasich and Lumpkin seem dedicated to a comprehensive approach to the challenge, with initiatives in public education, health care, job training and placement and mechanical improvements in how benefits are delivered to those in poverty.

Lumpkin is to deliver recommendations to the governor before the end of this year. Kasich may be able to implement some by executive order, though others may require legislative action. After careful analysis to ensure the plan is good – not full of politically correct feel-good initiatives – state officials should move quickly to implement it.