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New programs helping lift Cincinnati families out of poverty



CINCINNATI (WKRC) – In October, the census reported 24,000 Cincinnati children live in poverty. That’s one reason why reducing that number is a priority for many city leaders.

Recently, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley renamed and reorganized the effort. The city now has two programs: the Workforce Innovation Center and Project LIFT.

Project LIFT launched in April. Organizers say the five-year program takes a new approach to helping people succeed.

City leaders are hoping to lift people out of poverty by helping them become more self-sufficient. Programs like Project LIFT focus on removing employment and transportation barriers. There’s also a focus on wraparound services designed to help people survive an emergency.

Chris Nicak, the director of research at University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says that focus can be a big help.

“Something like 40 percent of households in America wouldn’t be able to find $600 in a month if they needed to for an emergency fund,” Nicak said.

Project LIFT is run by Hamilton County Job & Family Services with partner agencies like the Talbert House. The goal is to be flexible in helping people end the cycle of poverty, said Talbert House CEO Neil Tillow.

“If someone has trouble with their car, we may say, ‘We’ll buy you two new tires, so you can get to work every day,” Tillow said. “Or, if you need a new set of clothes to go to a job or a couple sets of clothes, we’re going to help you with that too because we want people to feel empowered and confident when they go into the workplace.”

The Workforce Innovation Center is the other new initiative.

“Project LIFT and Workforce Innovation Center just started assisting people this year, and yet we are seeing a faster poverty-rate reduction then when we started,” Cranley said in his State of the City address in October. “With 6,500 Cincinnatians having escaped poverty in just the last year thanks to this and all the other efforts we’ve been discussing.”

The Workforce Innovation Center replaced the Employer Roundtable. The idea now is to connect companies to social service agencies and their clients, or people who need jobs.

Workers at the Kroger Manufacturing Plant in Lower Price Hill are making pancake syrup as part of the new program.

“We have some that do a job-readiness program for three months,” Tina Baumann, Kroger Corporate HR said. “Some for 18 months and the other part is that once we hired them, if they ran into a situation, we had someone that can help them.”

That program is called New Beginnings because the workers have a non-violent criminal record. Kroger started test-hiring the second-chance workers a few years ago. After a 93-percent retention rate, the program is here to stay.

“I like to say this is Kroger’s best-kept secret for the past couple of years,” Baumann said.

Kroger is one of the companies partnering with the Workforce Innovation Center. Director Audrey Treasure says they’re looking for more Tri-State businesses to get creative about hiring and managing people.

“Employers have to be a part of this,” Treasure said. “It’s an important part of our entire society. How do companies support our whole community? They do a lot and we think they can do more.”

Treasure also says the idea is to get companies to give people a full-time job that will stabilize their family and pull them and their children out of poverty.

Local 12 will monitor both programs and report back to you on how many people each helps.

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