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August 11th, 2021

Results of a survey conducted this summer by United Way of Central Ohio, in partnership with United for ALICE and other local organizations, reveals Franklin County’s low-income households experienced greater challenges from COVID-19 compared to more financially-secure populations.

A convenience sampling of 2,466 respondents residing in Franklin County show people in households below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and households that are ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed, experienced greater disparity during the pandemic in categories including employment, housing, finances, child care and technology.

“When COVID-19 hit, 41% of all households in Franklin County were already struggling to make ends meet — a ten-year record high. That set the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the pandemic,” said Lisa Courtice, CEO and President of United Way of Central Ohio. “While much of central Ohio is in recovery mode, many families are nowhere near recovering what they lost.”

When respondents were asked their biggest concerns, people living below the ALICE Threshold (households below the FPL and ALICE) identified contracting COVID-19 (31%), paying housing expenses (19%) and mental health (13%). Similarly, respondents above the ALICE Threshold revealed contracting COVID-19 (53%) and mental health (18%), but saw child care (10%) as a greater concern than paying housing expenses.

“It’s not surprising that families living below the ALICE Threshold identified paying housing expenses as one of their biggest concerns. This group experienced much more financial insecurity due to lost employment, reduced hours, leaving jobs due to child care issues and so much more,” said Dr. Ashley Anglin, Director of Research and Strategic Analysis at United For ALICE. “It could take years before they recoup what they lost, which is why our community safety net is so very important.”

While government assistance and unemployment benefits provided some short-term relief, respondents below the ALICE Threshold were significantly more likely than respondents above the Threshold to take any steps necessary to make ends meet, including obtaining food from a food pantry/food bank (35% vs. 5%), borrowing from family or friends (28% vs. 5%), increasing a balance on a credit card (26% vs. 18%), selling belongings for cash (18% vs. 8%) or taking money out of a retirement account (13% vs. 5%).

“By capturing this data-rich information, nonprofits like United Way of Central Ohio can do more to channel funding to organizations that yield the greatest impact,” said Courtice. “Without question, the ripple effect from the pandemic will be felt for years to come. We must unite as one community to help stabilize families so that everyone in central Ohio can recover and thrive.”

The full COVID-19 Impact Survey (Franklin County) can be found here.

You can join United Way in building a stronger, more equitable central Ohio by donating to our Community Response Fund or volunteering for one of our many available opportunities.

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