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Bridging the gap of the benefits cliff in Ohio

Still think we haven’t painted ourselves into a corner in this country with the taxpayer-funded public assistance programs that now keep so many families afloat?

A study by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation shows 20 percent of Buckeye State businesses have had problems with hiring, promoting or increasing wages for workers because they are worried that doing so would mean those folks lose some form of public assistance, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Advocates are asking lawmakers to pay attention to the problems associated with “the benefits cliff.”

It is a sign, too, that our economy may not be booming quite to the degree — or in the way — some elected officials hope we will believe. Sure, unemployment is down. But in Ohio, adjustments for inflation mean the median worker earns 43 cents per hour LESS today than in 1979. A Policy Matters report showed last year, 60 percent of Ohio’s 10 most common jobs paid an average full-time worker less than $26,000 per year.

Policy Matters is a liberal research group, which means their suggested solution is for employers to raise all wages high enough to avoid worries about the benefits cliff.

Most Ohio employers are not in a position to do such a thing. Many are closer to their own financial cliffs than they would like to think about.

According to Justin Barnes, executive director of the chamber’s research foundation, there are workers in Ohio turning down pay raises, quitting jobs or declining job offers altogether because they do not want to lose taxpayer-funded benefits.

“That leaves workers frustrated because they feel trapped by the system,” Barnes told The Dispatch. “It also frustrates employers.”

Meanwhile, the executive director of Ohio’s Association of Foodbanks told The Dispatch there are “more people standing in food-pantry lines in this state than during the Great Recession.”

Something is very wrong, if elected officials (of both political parties) and their corporate donors are using the safety net of taxpayer-funded public assistance to shore up their claims of a skyrocketing economy, leaving smaller business owners and the working poor to deal with the consequences.

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