Big differences in COVID needs for high and low poverty neighborhoods

Since COVID-19, people in high-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to call 2-1-1 seeking help with food and housing while those from low-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to call about healthcare, which includes information about COVID risks, protections, symptoms and testing. Those in high-poverty neighborhoods were also more likely to call 2-1-1 seeking help with utility payments, clothing and household needs. As the chart shows, most of these differences follow a dose-response gradient, meaning that the degree of need steadily grew or shrunk as the proportion of residents living in poverty increased or decreased. Employment-related requests to 2-1-1 did not differ by neighborhood poverty level. Analyses considered 1.7 million requests to 2-1-1 from March 12 to June 10, 2020 in eight broad categories: food, housing, utilities, clothing and household, healthcare, employment and income, mental health and addictions, and all other categories combined. We examined the proportion of requests in each category based on each 2-1-1 caller’s ZIP code. ZIP codes were classified into eight categories by level of poverty, ranging from <5% to ≥35% in increments of 5%. Analyses included data from 2-1-1s in 32 states participating in a daily tracking system: AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, VA, WA, WI and WY. Requests without ZIP code information (e.g., web requests) were excluded from analyses.

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