Franklin County commissioners have announced a new collaboration to address poverty.
The Franklin County Rise Together Blueprint includes more than a hundred goals and action steps to target the causes of poverty. One of those involves creating the Innovation Center, which will be housed at the Columbus Partnership and led by a committee chaired by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank's Matt Habash and Ohio State University's Trudy Bartley.
The 17-member committee will initially focus on increasing employer engagement in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, increasing access to job training that meets the local demand, increasing the number of students experiencing academic success and evaluating the big idea of an expanded childcare subsidy program and early childhood education for all Franklin Count residents. Commissioners committed $2.5 million in annual funding to the Innovation Center, but they envision it spinning off into a stand-alone organization.
The blueprint addresses four areas: jobs, housing, health, and youth. Commissioners also announced some immediate actions that include raising the minimum wage of county employees to $15 per hour. They say 169 of the county's nearly 1,300 employees currently make less than that.
The plan will also address racial inequities when it comes to poverty in Franklin County. According to the most recent federal poverty level statistics, nearly 17 percent of Franklin County residents live in poverty. But for the rate for African Americans is almost 30 percent, Hispanics 29 percent and children 26 percent.
Commissioners say success would be having fewer families in poverty and more families gaining economic mobility. They plan to host a series of community conversations to introduce the plan to residents and seek input. The forums are listed below, and officials say more are expected to be added. Here’s a link to the full Rise Together Blueprint.
• June 17, 5:30 PM (Reynoldsburg) – Reynoldsburg Park & Recreation Center
• June 18, 5:30 PM (Westerville) – Westerville Community Center
• June 19, 5:30 PM (South Side) – Reeb Avenue Center
• June 26, 5:30 PM (Near East Side) – Columbus Urban League