Unlike last the recession, Ohio leaders can meet the moment with bold and inclusive policies


More than a decade later, 114,000 more Ohioans live in poverty compared to before the Great Recession of 2008. Now Ohioans, like the rest of the country, are not only living through a public health crisis, but also a recession. A new Policy Matters Ohio report offers a roadmap for state policymakers to ensure Ohio emerges stronger and more prosperous for everyone, no matter where they live or what they look like. 

“Government action is how we all come together to tackle big challenges,” said report author, Senior Project Director Wendy Patton. “In the 1930s, President Roosevelt’s New Deal helped Americans get back to work and buy homes. During the Great Recession, the federal stimulus supported state and local governments and federal loans saved thousands of jobs in the auto industry. In both cases, lawmakers made some policy choices that left people out: The New Deal excluded Black and Brown Americans from certain programs and the federal stimulus ended too soon, before recovery reached many small towns and rural areas. This time, our leaders can make different choices that will benefit everyone.”

To get through the recession, Ohio’s leaders must push the federal government for more flexible aid for state and local governments and increased funding for Medicaid that lasts through the pandemic and until unemployment subsides to pre-recession levels. State lawmakers must maintain or expand aid for programs that help people get enough to eat, make ends meet, and stay home if they get sick or to care for their loved ones, Patton said. Black and Brown Ohioans, who suffered most during the last recession, should receive targeted state support. 

“As we slowly pulled out of the last recession, Ohio’s lawmakers cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations and slashed the budget for schools, human services and aid to local governments,” Patton said. “One clear bright spot was Gov. Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid, which supported thousands of jobs and extended health care to thousands of Ohioans.” 

Federal lawmakers must expand and extend aid to state and local governments to ensure health care during the pandemic, keep public services intact and help struggling families. State lawmakers must ensure needs are met as well and can generate new revenue to do so by:

  • Using the $2.7 billion rainy day fund to close the state’s budget gap. 
  • Rebalancing Ohio’s upside-down tax system that favors the wealthy and starves schools, public transit and more.
  • Tapping unconventional resources like the privatized economic development agency JobsOhio to help close budget shortfalls and put people to work by creating job corps.

“During the last recession, state and federal leaders didn’t do enough for people who were hit the hardest,” Patton said. “This time they can do better.”

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