COLUMBUS — Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio counties saw fewer kids in poverty and other strides in improving child well-being, but the public-health emergency wiped out many of those gains, according to new data from the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio).
The state saw a 97% increase in unemployment from 2019 to 2020, which resulted in many families also losing health insurance.
This year's KIDS COUNT County Profiles show how kids and families are doing, by county and school district.
Morghan Hyatt, data policy associate for CDF-Ohio, said the data can help local governments determine how to spend American Rescue Plan dollars.
"The American Rescue Plan Act funds represents a great, great opportunity to make further headway in improving child well-being throughout Ohio, with their specific needs for every county," Hyatt asserted. "And having those data-informed strategies can improve the lives of families and children."
According to the KIDS COUNT data, the number of Ohio children enrolled in Medicaid decreased by 2% during Fiscal Year 2020. Ohio is receiving $12 billion through the American Rescue Plan.
Kim Eckhart, Kids Count program manager for the CDF-Ohio, said she wants to see local county governments invite community voices to have a seat at the table when allocating recovery funds.
"We would like for, when they are deciding how to allocate those dollars, that they are inviting the public, including community-based organizations who might have some strategic investments that they could make that would really address things," Eckhart explained. "I'm thinking things like food banks, child-care centers."
Eckhart added Franklin County could be a model for engaging with local residents about the allocation process.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners heard testimony last month from community members, who requested the $255 million the county is receiving be used in areas like health care, child care and affordable housing.