Economic needs trump COVID needs in high poverty ZIP codes

Low-income Americans have been hit hard by both health and economic impacts of COVID-19, but it’s their economic needs that seem to take priority. We examined 9.1 million requests received by 211s in 34 states between March 12, 2020 and March 25, 2021, comparing the types of requests across ZIP codes with different levels of poverty. Requests were classified as addressing COVID-19 vaccination (green bars in chart), COVID-19 testing (teal bars), other COVID-19 requests such as information, exposure, or prevention (blue bars) or all other non-COVID-19 requests such as rent, food and utilities (red bars). Calls to 211 from ZIP codes with the highest poverty rates (20% or more of households below federal poverty level) were overwhelming – 92% – for non-COVID-19 needs. In contrast, only 67% of calls to 211 from the lowest poverty ZIP codes (<5% in poverty) were seeking non-COVID-19 assistance, while one-third of requests were COVID-19 related. Across five levels of ZIP code poverty, the pattern is clear: as poverty increases, so does the proportion of 211 requests seeking help with non-COVID-19 needs. Mouse over each section of each bar to see the number of requests from each group. Data are from 211 Counts, a daily tracking system of community needs used in 38 states. States included in this analysis are: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, IL, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI and WY.

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