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.
Helpline calls about COVID-19 are shifting again. Since 2021, the majority of COVID requests have sought information about or assistance with vaccination.
On January 13th, NBC Nightly News aired a story on how to get a COVID vaccine appointment. In the story, viewers were encouraged to call 211 for help. It worked.
In Texas, requests for mental health services rise and fall with COVID-19’s impact. The charts below show nearly identical patterns in the average number of daily requests to 2-1-1s in Texas in 2020 for COVID-19 information and assistance (top chart) and mental health services (bottom chart).
From October to November, requests to 2-1-1 for food assistance and COVID-19 information increased more than any other needs. Of the 10 needs for which requests increased most during November (blue bars in chart), half were food-related.
Requests for COVID-19 diagnostic testing are surging as new cases rise. Connecticut 2-1-1 reported 377,558 testing inquiries to its web service in the first 15 days of November, including over 50,000 requests in a single day, November 13th.
Requests for holiday meals, COVID-19 services, and clothing grew fastest in October. COVID-19 requests to 2-1-1, which include those seeking information about testing, jumped by 73% in October. Clothing needs grew by 30%. But the biggest October increase was in requests for holiday meals at 153%.
As a new school year began with millions of American children learning remotely at home, requests to 2-1-1s for internet assistance rose 40% in September. Utility payment assistance needs also rose sharply, with requests for heating fuel (+29%), utility payment plans (26%), water (+22%) and gas (+14%) all among the top 10 in percentage increase (see chart, in blue).
Calls about COVID-19 may be dropping, but its economic impact keeps the phones ringing off the hook at Pennsylvania 2-1-1. In contrast to COVID-19 requests, calls to 2-1-1 for rent assistance, shelters, low-cost housing and help dealing with landlord/tenant issues have all steadily increased since the pandemic began.
Americans’ needs for utility payment and rent assistance, low-cost housing and legal assistance all increased in Month 5 of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going up: needs for low-cost housing, child care, health services, and COVID-19 requests. Coming down: food and unemployment requests. We examined requests for assistance in 12 need categories reported by 2-1-1s in 32 states since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Daily calls about COVID-19 to 2-1-1 in Washington are rising fast, driven largely by areas of the state with large Hispanic populations. With the pandemic entering its fifth month, COVID-19 requests in Washington have shifted dramatically from population centers near Seattle to south central Washington, a region with the largest proportional Hispanic population in the state.
Requests to 2-1-1 for rent assistance and COVID-19 information topped all categories in June, while requests for low-cost housing and help buying food increased the most over May. Average daily requests to 2-1-1 for all needs increased slightly (+3%) from May to June, and requests in June remain well-above pre-COVID-19 levels (+28%).
In Connecticut, requests to 2-1-1 for COVID-19 information are declining as the pandemic wears on while requests for COVID-19 diagnostic testing are rising rapidly. Moreover, most requests for COVID information are received by phone, while an overwhelming majority of requests for diagnostic testing are coming from online searches of 2-1-1’s resource database.
States that are partnering with 2-1-1s in their COVID response are generating more COVID requests to 2-1-1. The charts below show requests for COVID-19 information each day during the pandemic as a proportion of all requests received. In states that partnered with 2-1-1, a larger proportion of requests were COVID-related.
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.