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Coronavirus Pandemic Reveals Lack of Safety Net for Ohio Workers

Ohio Capital Journal Ohio Capital Journal Coronavirus Pandemic Reveals Lack of Safety Net for Ohio Workers
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By Joree Novotny

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3 in 10 American workers cannot take time off when they’re sick without losing wages or even their jobs. That number is much higher for workers in sectors like food service (4 in 5) and personal care/home health (3 in 4). Even fewer can take paid time off when a child or family member is sick.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve estimates that nearly 4 in 10 American adults don’t have enough saved to cover a $400 emergency. 

Why did more than 1.6 million different Ohioans come to our food pantries for help with groceries last year? It’s not because they’re not working. 

It’s because they don’t get reliable hours, benefits or paid time off, and they don’t make enough to put anything away to help them cope when a kid is home sick or a car breaks down, or, in this case, a pandemic starts to put real pressure on local economies.

Our foodbanks are grateful to be a small part of a large and well-coordinated effort in our local communities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and respond to the fallout its spread creates. But like everyone else, we hope that this pandemic does little widespread damage. 

We hope, instead, that it serves only to draw critical attention to the unacceptable circumstances that so many hardworking Ohioans face in their jobs. Policymakers and employers: whether in the face of an illness we already know or a new virus we hope to avoid, no one should have to choose between going to work sick or losing the wages they need to put food on the table.

Joree has worked to represent the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, and its 12 member foodbanks and 3,600 member agencies for nearly a decade.

This article was republished with permission from Ohio Capital Journal. For more in Ohio political news, visit www.ohiocapitaljournal.com.

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