COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Unemployment is low, building is up and the population in central Ohio is growing, but despite those statistics more than 16 percent of Franklin County residents are living below the poverty line, according to a new report compiled by the Franklin County Commissioners.
Franklin County’s unemployment rate is around 4 percent, meaning most of the 210,000 residents living below the poverty line are already working but cannot make ends meet. One of the most impoverished areas in the county is Weinland park where 3 in 5 people are living in poverty.
Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady said the county is working to change that, not just for residents of Weinland Park, but for everyone who is struggling.
“We realized a couple years ago that while growth in Franklin County has been tremendous, phenomenal, and our unemployment rate is unbelievably low, there’s too many people living in Franklin County that are living in poverty,” O’Grady said. “16.7 percent of our residents are living in poverty. Almost 25 percent of our children are living in poverty. And if you’re African American, almost 33% of African American folks are living in poverty. It’s just not okay.”
O’Grady went on to explain that over the past few years, the county has focused on growth and making life better for residents, but now it’s time to focus on those who are most in need.
“People are working, they’re just having a hard time getting ahead,” O’Grady said.
The commissioners worked with non-profit leaders throughout Franklin County to bring together focus groups, clients and those who are struggling the most. They spoke to more than 200 people in community meetings across the county. In all, it took nine months for them to come up with a plan.
“We came out with 13 goals, over 120 action steps, and we decided to create what we refer to as an ‘innovation center,’” O’Grady said. “The idea is to look at what new opportunities are there, what are the best practices, what is going in other communities across the country, what are things that we can try, things that we can do.”
O’Grady said the innovation center will vet and pilot those innovative ideas and work find ways to implement them.
“They will pilot these big ideas and try them out and see what we can come up with to try to do what we can to impact the largest number of people in the community with something new, something exciting, something that’s never been thought of or never been tried before,” he said.