Cleveland – The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) released its 2023 State of Poverty in Ohio Report on Monday afternoon during a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse.

The annual report analyzes credible data to highlight trends in poverty and barriers, which could interfere with low-income Ohioans path to self-sufficiency. Ohio is working to regain its pre-pandemic state and as economic and other factors change, so do the factors of poverty. This year, three critical themes emerged as research for the report progressed: pandemic learning loss, mental health provider access, and access to transportation. The issues, though felt by many across the state, have disproportionately affected low-income Ohioans.

“As the state’s designated anti-poverty agency for Cuyahoga County, Step Forward is deeply moved by the insights revealed in the 2023 State of Poverty in Ohio Report,” Derek Cluse, Step Forward’s Chief Operating Officer, said. “The profound impact of pandemic learning loss, the struggles to access mental health services and the barriers to transportation are taking a toll on the lives of our fellow Ohioans, particularly those living within a limited means. Step Forward’s commitment to change is personal and genuine, fueled by the stories of resilience we encounter every day. We are uplifted by compassion, opportunity, and the unwavering determination to build a more equitable society for all. ”

Throughout 2023, Step Forward confirms it has experienced increased demand for financial aid, including rental assistance and home energy assistance.

“The overwhelming demand for rental assistance in 2023 has surpassed our expectations,” Travena Golliday, Step Forward’s Director of Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, acknowledged. “We accept 250 rental assistance applications at a time to process the paperwork in a timely manner and the timeframe in which our system is open has been decreasing each week, sometimes down to a matter of hours.”

Step Forward’s Community Services team recognizes that addressing the immediate needs of those living in poverty goes hand in hand with mental wellbeing. The agency continues to offer comprehensive counseling and other programs at no cost to income-eligible residents in Cuyahoga County.

“By tending to the whole person, we strive to empower individuals to overcome the challenges they are facing and to build a brighter future,” Golliday said. “Together, we are creating a safe and compassionate space where healing and transformation can take place, ensuring that no one walks their journey alone.”

The 2023 State of Poverty in Ohio Report was developed in collaboration with Strategic Research Group and can be viewed online at In addition to the three areas of focus, the report includes an update on last year’s focus area on factors contributing to student debt.