PART 1: After the initial shock

What goes up, must come down. Or does it? The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 sent requests to 2-1-1 skyrocketing for a wide range of needs. Seven months later, we have a much clearer picture of what happened next. We analyzed 5.6 million requests received by 2-1-1s in 32 states during 2020 using data from a daily 2-1-1 tracking system. We identified four distinct patterns that followed the initial burst of requests to 2-1-1, and they vary by type of need. One pattern looks like a playground slide, with requests to 2-1-1 rising sharply in the first weeks of COVID, sliding lower over time, and flattening out at the end of the slide, but at a level higher that where it began. The top row of the chart below shows that requests for many food-related needs, unemployment benefits, as well as personal hygiene products like diapers and toilet paper follow this pattern. A second pattern, blip, can be seen in needs that rose sharply then returned to pre-COVID levels or lower (second row from top in chart). Requests to 2-1-1 for soup kitchens, feeding children and prescription medications follow this pattern. The step pattern includes needs for financial and government assistance for which requests rose with COVID and have remained at or near peak levels since then (third row from top in chart). In the bottom row, we see the climb, characterized by steadily increasing requests after the initial rise and fall with the onset of COVID. Some climb patterns show gradual gains (e.g., medical providers), while others grows more dramatically (e.g., rent and mortgage assistance, electric and water bills). This is the first of a multi-part report on time-series patterns of requests to 2-1-1 during COVID-19. Average daily requests were calculated by averaging current and six prior days. Web requests were excluded from analyses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *