Working through unemployment

Deanna Stevens

Ohio follows national struggle with poverty, unemployment

The recent increase in minimum wage is a sign that people all across the country are struggling to survive in the current economy.

And that struggle is no different in the state of Ohio.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, 8.3 percent of people in Portage County were below the poverty line.

In more recent studies, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found that in December 2006, 5.2 percent of the population was unemployed. The percentage makes Portage County 57th in the state.

Maureen Frederick, Portage County Commissioners president, said the numbers may be a little misleading because when a person exhausts his or her unemployment benefits, the government no longer counts them.

“It’s like they don’t exist,” Frederick said.

In Ohio, people can get temporary compensation for up to six months while looking for a new job, according to The amount of money some people are eligible to receive depends on the job they held in the past.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services requires those looking for those unemployment compensation to meet the following: have had a job within the state for a year, not be at fault for losing the job, must be able to work and looking for other employment.

Portage County has a One-Stop center, the Portage County Workforce Connection to aid those looking for jobs or updating their skills, as required for all counties by the federal government.

“It’s somewhat to counter unemployment,” Fredrick said about the organization. “But the programs are used to get the unemployed, or underemployed retrained and get them into new jobs.”

Anyone can use the resources provided at the center, but some training services require eligibility standards.

People must be 200 percent below the poverty line, which would be equivalent to earning below $1,634 per year with a one-person household, or $2,200 in a household with two people, in order to qualify.

The regulations are in accordance with the Workforce Investment Act, which came into effect in 1998 and was updated in 2004.

“There’s always minor changes of the program, which adjust the income levels of the individuals who apply for the program,” said Mary Boston, Workforce Connection supervisor. “As funding gets limited in each one of the counties or areas, we have to do a need assessment. If someone came in with an associates degree and wanted to move on to a higher degree, we would probably not approve them opposed to approving somebody who had absolutely no training or certificate.”

For those who are ready to go back into the workplace, the Portage County Workforce Connection tries to get people into new jobs is with a dating service-type computer system.

The statewide computer program known as Sharing Career Opportunities and Training Information allows employers to put job descriptions of open positions. Potential employees can put their resumes and other information into the system.

Workforce Connection manager Becky Porcase said either the job seeker can look through jobs that they may be suited for, or the employer can keep the opening hidden and select a candidate of those that are qualified.

There no requirements for people who just want to use resources like resume assistance, career assessment and open job listings that are provided at the Ravenna center.

“The resource center is open to the universal customer,” Porcase said. “Anyone can come off the street and use our phones, our fax, there are computers in the resource center. There is also a job posting board, and people just come in to see what jobs have been posted.”

Contact public affairs reporter Deanna Stevens [email protected]. Public affairs reporter Erica Crist contributed to this story.