by Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

Columbus, Ohio – More than a dozen groups are banding together to make sure Ohio does right by its children in the next state budget cycle.

The Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition is ramping up efforts to maintain, protect and strengthen public resources that support children.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio is among the organizations involved.

Gina Wilt, advocacy director for the housing group, said they’ll use their collective voice to outline policy priorities in the coming months.

Gina Wilt is Advocacy Director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

“All of our issues intersect,” Wilt noted. “And sometimes we get into these silos, and we can’t afford to be in silos right now. There’s a potential $2 billion shortfall. The governor, he’s going to have a lot to look through, and we must be in sync.”

Wilt said they hope to build on their success of the last budget cycle, when funding was increased for seven of 11 issues in the coalition’s agenda for children.

Specifically, Wilt said the last budget improved support for evidence-based home visiting, for mitigating children’s lead exposure, and for wrap-around support in schools. 

“Really being able to focus on families and children is a top priority,” Wilt explained. “That’s something that we think Gov. DeWine can get on board with. And he has shown that this is a top priority in work that he’s already done. We need to make sure that that’s continued.”

Wilt added longstanding structural barriers and public-policy choices have created an uneven playing field for Ohio children. She noted the economic downturn has disproportionately affected children and families of color. 

“We have seen huge gaps in our safety net for children and families of color,” Wilt contended. “That will definitely be a priority as we talk about all of these issues; child health, child care, education, justice issues related to our youth, housing and homelessness, and food security.”

Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to release his budget recommendations for Fiscal Years 2022 to 2023 by mid-March, and the budget bill must be signed by June 30 to take effect July 1.

Mary Kuhlman is an Ohio-based broadcast journalist who has been a part of the Public News Service team since 2008. She has worked as a radio news anchor and reporter in major markets, beginning her career at WHIO-AM in Dayton, eventually moving to WTAM 1100 as a reporter and anchor covering news market in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown. Mary enjoys producing stories that feature often overlooked issues and highlight local voices. Mary currently covers economic, social and environmental justice throughout the Midwest and serves as a national assignment editor.

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