Medina County ranks high among wealthy counties in Ohio, yet 32 percent of its households struggle to meet basic costs of living, according to the results of an ALICE study released by United Way of Ohio.
ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is a multistate effort that examines poverty beyond federal poverty level guidelines. ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county in which they live.
In the case of Medina County, where the median household income is $72,618 — significantly higher than the state average of $52,334 — a household with two adults, one infant and one preschooler would require a household income of $65,328 to survive, the study said.
The numbers released this week are an update to a 2017 study.
The required hourly wage needed to meet the household survival budget increased from $32.66 per hour to $35.90, according to the new data.
Without access to the kind of salary needed to survive in Medina County, many families turn to food pantries, personal care pantries and agencies like Feeding Medina County to feed and provide for families while stretching strained budgets.
Roger Biada, director of the Medina Personal Care Pantry, said he’s seeing more people who are working but not making ends meet.
“They work, but don’t make enough to meet expenses,” he said Thursday. “Some employers aren’t even hiring full time. They hire part-timers so they don’t have to offer benefits. (Those that do offer benefits), you still have to pay a big chunk of it.”
The Personal Care Pantry is held the first Saturday of every month at Living Hope Church, 6288 Wooster Pike, Montville Township. It offers personal care items such as laundry detergent, soap, toilet paper, paper towels and other household items.
A family of five or more can get as many as 18 items for a $4 donation.
They must qualify with some kind of government assistance like SNAP or Social Security. However, the income levels of ALICE families often are higher than allowable thresholds for benefit programs. Biada said there are exceptions to the rule.
“We don’t turn them away if they don’t have the $4,” Biada said.
He said the pantry hosted 252 families in October.
The Living Hope Church also hosts a food pantry on the third Saturday of the month. Between 120 and 130 families were served on the last distribution day.
Feeding Medina County, at 650 W. Smith Road, Medina, delivers food to 24 food pantries in Medina County that are under the umbrella of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. That includes Living Hope Church.
ALICE families are households with working adults who are struggling to pay bills, according to the United Way.
Twenty-five percent of Medina County households fall within the ALICE threshold. The state average is 28 percent. Seven percent of the households fall within the poverty levels. The state average is 14 percent.
In Medina County, the top three towns with struggling ALICE households are Lodi at 64 percent, Gloria Glens Park at 52 percent and Spencer at 48 percent.
In the three cities, 36 percent of Brunswick’s 13,456 households fall within the ALICE and/or poverty range. Forty-two percent of Medina’s 10,166 households are in the ALICE and/or poverty range, and 36 percent of Wadsworth’s 8,708 households are in the ALICE and/or poverty range.
The United Way devised ALICE to bring new terminology to poverty, saying the federal poverty line “grossly underestimates the number of struggling families.”
The adjusted federal poverty level was $11,880 for a single adult and $24,300 for a family of four in 2016.
“In a bountiful county like Medina, helping ALICE to become self-sufficient is not only the right thing, it is the possible thing,” Cheryl Parzych, CEO of the United Way of Medina County, said in a statement.
The household survival budget gives the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care at a bare-minimum survival level. It doesn’t include any savings, leaving households without a cushion for unexpected expenses and unable to invest in the future.
New numbers show the most significant increases that impact ALICE households are child care, health care and taxes. Those most impacted are single or cohabiting households with 32 percent falling in poverty or ALICE, families with children at 31 percent, then 65-and-older households at 30 percent.