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Not All Ohioans Can Prepare For Pandemic Emergencies

Ohio Public Radio

As the coronavirus spreads, people are being urged to prepare by stocking up on food and supplies, checking to see if they can work from home if schools and workplaces are shut down, and staying home if they’re sick. But for many Ohioans, these aren’t options. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.


Lisa Hamler-Fugitt with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks said it’s estimated more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

“So the idea that they could stockpile two weeks’ worth of food that they would need to feed themselves and their families is just unheard of," Hamler-Fugitt said. "And in fact now’s the time to really be having a broader conversation about how we are going to respond, when in fact one in three jobs don’t pay enough to have a savings [account]."

And nine of the 10 most common jobs in Ohio, employing 1.2 million people, pay less than $34,000 a year.

Susan Smith with the Poor People’s Campaign in Columbus said those in service jobs can’t work from home, and if they don’t go to work because of coronavirus they don’t get paid.

“If it becomes a pandemic, I think a lot of people will have their eyes opened as to the condition of a vast number of people in our country who are living below the poverty line," Smith said.

And if schools are shut down, not only might parents be risking jobs to stay home with their kids, but those families who rely on free or reduced price breakfast and lunch won’t get them.

Hamler-Fugitt said there is a provision in the SNAP program that can provide people with extra food stamp benefits to replace school-based meals in emergencies, but that’s up to the federal government and states.

“Our food banks have anywhere from a 15- to 30-day supply of food. So we are very concerned about what this means to the low-income families that we currently serve," Hamler-Fugitt said. "Add to that potentially millions more that will end up losing jobs and be without pay and the kind of stress or burden that’s going to put not only on them but also our system."

And 744,000 Ohioans have no health insurance, including more than 41,000 kids.

The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
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