Cincinnati Nonprofit Raises Employees’ Salaries

by Bill Cieslewicz – Managing editor, Cincinnati Business Courier

A Cincinnati nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents in Greater Cincinnati has raised the salaries of its own employees to a living wage minimum.

The Community Action Agency (CAA), based in Bond Hill, increased the salary of all staff making below livable wage – 23 of its 213 employees – effective Jan. 1 as well as its future employees. The move comes on the heels of a recent U.S. Census Bureau report that showed Cincinnati’s poverty rate increased to more than 27 percent since 2007.

“We should walk the talk,” Mark Lawson, CAA president and CEO, said in a release. “CAA’s mission is to inspire dreams and improve lives. One of the main focuses at CAA is to help people find jobs that put them on a career path. We are in the business of helping people succeed. We cannot do that wholeheartedly if we are not improving the lives of those that work hard within our organization to drive our mission forward.”

Lawson, who succeeded Gwen Robinson as CEO in September, served as a member of CAA’s board of directors for more than 18 years, including 12 years as board chair. He has spent his career advocating for the underserved in Greater Cincinnati through his work at the Legal Aid Society.

This month, every CAA employee making below the living wage of $15 per hour saw a pay increase.

Living wage is defined as the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family if they are the sole provider and are working full-time (2,080 hours per year). In Cincinnati, the wage varies from $8.43 to $33.58 depending on size of household. Ohio’s minimum wage is $8.30 for all individuals regardless of how many dependents they may have.

“We’re not a big corporation, but our goal is to show that everyone can do their part to make a difference,” Lawson said.

CAA assists 35,000 families each year as it administers the federal Head Start program that provides early childhood education to low-income children. The agency also helps people acquire job skills, find employment, pay utility bills and meet basic needs as they work to become self-sufficient.

The Community Action network was created with the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s historic “War on Poverty” initiative. The act established a federal Office of Economic Opportunity and created organizations called Community Action Agencies that would develop strategies to solve issues of poverty with an emphasis on local input.

The Hamilton County CAA was the second such organization in the nation when it was founded in 1964. It was established by the late Theodore Berry Sr., who would go on to become Cincinnati’s first African-American mayor.

For information about the programs and services that CAA offers, call 513-569-1840 or click here.