One third of Americans calling 2-1-1 from low-poverty ZIP codes are requesting COVID-19 information about exposure, infection, disease or testing. In sharp contrast, only 11% of 2-1-1 callers from high-poverty ZIP codes want COVID-19 information. Instead, they overwhelmingly request help with basic needs like food, housing and utility payments. As the chart below shows, there is a clear association between neighborhood poverty and reasons for calling 2-1-1 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Requests to 2-1-1 from all or parts of 31 states from March 12 to April 22, 2020 were analyzed. The originating ZIP code for each request was classified by the proportion of residents in poverty, ranging from <5% to ≥ 20%. The higher the poverty level in a ZIP code, the larger the percentage of requests for basic needs. The lower the poverty level, the larger the percentage of requests for COVID-19 information. The finding aligns with many studies showing that the more unmet basic needs a person has, the less they tend to focus on health concerns. In analyses, Basic needs included child care, clothing, household goods, employment and income, food, housing, transportation, legal services, healthcare, education, mental health and others. 2-1-1s with statewide coverage included AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, PA, SC, SD, VA, WI and WY; 2-1-1s with partial coverage included CA, IL, IN, KS, KY, OH and TN.
Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Matthew Kreuter