2-1-1s getting noticed for COVID work

April 28, 2020

2-1-1s are responding to record-breaking call volume across the U.S., and people are noticing. A search of “211” in the news section of any web browser yield thousands of results in the last month alone. While most are only brief mentions referring readers and viewers to 2-1-1 for help, many are covering the story of 2-1-1s’ response to COVID-related needs. To study these stories, we searched Google News using combinations of the terms “211” or “2-1-1”; “COVID” or “coronavirus” or “pandemic”; “calls” or “requests” or “volume”; and “food” or “rent” or “utilities” or “unemployment” or “mortgage” or “diapers” or “toilet paper” or “child care” or “meals” or “testing.” This returned 138 distinct news stories, 96 of which reported specific numbers and/or percentage increases in calls to 2-1-1. The 96 stories were published in 34 states between March 18th and April 28th 2020. Most stories (74%) reported on increases in total call volume at 2-1-1, but many stories also reported increases in specific types of requests, most commonly food (56%), housing (45%), COVID-19 (36%) or utilities (32%). Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts and North Carolina had the most news coverage of these stories. States and counties served by 211 Counts data dashboards accounted for 74% of all stories, despite making up just 53% of states and counties in the U.S.

Contributors: Cindy Charles, Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter, Enguday Teshome, Jennifer Wolff, Bao Nhia Xiong