Despite service disconnection bans in many states during the COVID-19 pandemic, utility assistance requests were up in most states in 2020.
Texas-sized differences in rent, food, utility and health needs
Requests to 2-1-1 have increased throughout Texas during COVID-19, but the size of the gains depends a lot on the type of need and region.
In Ohio, resources reveal need
Among the many lessons learned about 2-1-1 requests during COVID-19, here’s one of the most important: availability of resources helps reveal community needs.
Rising water: STL requests up for water bills
With water and sewer bills coming due, a record number of St. Louisans are calling to 2-1-1 for payment assistance. From August 21st to November 2nd, totals requests are 116% higher in 2020 than 2019.
Year-over-year changes: October 2019 to 2020
Food, housing and utility needs reported to 2-1-1s in October 2020 were sharply higher than totals from October 2019.
Needs top 100,000 in STL
Calls for help in St. Louis just topped 100,000 for the year. The largest pre- to post-COVID-19 increases have been in requests for assistance with getting personal hygiene products such as diapers and toilet paper (+96%), electric bill payment (+77%), gas bill payment (+56%), water bill payment (+51%), food pantries (+43%) and rent assistance (+37%). The chart shows these and other needs that have grown during the pandemic.
Fall peak in utility needs comes earlier, is bigger in 2020
Requests for help paying utility bills always rise in the fall. In 2020, that increase came earlier and rose higher than usual. Overall, we found that after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, utility requests have been 45% higher in 2020 compared to 2019.
PART 1: After the initial shock
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 sent requests to 2-1-1 skyrocketing for a wide range of needs. We identified four distinct patterns that followed the initial burst of requests to 2-1-1, and they vary by type of need.
Calls flood 2-1-1 in Minnesota for COVID aid program
Requests for rent and mortgage assistance in Minnesota more than doubled when COVID-19 hit, the doubled AGAIN last month when the state launched a new aid program.
September’s fastest rising needs: Internet access, utility bills
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).
CARES = calls at 2-1-1 in Ohio
When Summit County, Ohio turned to 2-1-1 to help deliver COVID-19 relief, the demand was clear instantly. Summit County CARES, a program to help families affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic pay their rent and utility bills, launched on July 6th.
Iowa, Minnesota see biggest jumps July-to-August
Wind storms and back-to-school needs pushed 2-1-1 requests higher in America’s heartland last month. Examining 27 states in a daily tracking system, Minnesota (+24%) and Iowa (+23%) saw the largest July-to-August increases in requests.
5 months of COVID-19: What needs are trending?
Americans’ needs for utility payment and rent assistance, low-cost housing and legal assistance all increased in Month 5 of the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Louis: More need help with electric bills as disconnection ban ends
Requests for help paying electric bills reached their highest level in St. Louis since March, as Ameren ended its suspension of disconnections.
Utility requests surge in NC ahead of expiring moratorium
As state protections expire, calls to 2-1-1 for utility payment assistance are surging in North Carolina. With a state moratorium on utility disconnections set to end on July 29th, 2-1-1 has seen a sharp increase in calls for help during the last week.
Big differences in COVID needs for high and low poverty neighborhoods
Since COVID-19, people in high-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to call 2-1-1 seeking help with food and housing while those from low-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to call about healthcare, which includes information about COVID risks, protections, symptoms and testing.
Phone vs. web requests to 2-1-1 during COVID
Requests to 2-1-1 can come by phone or through web searches, and new analyses suggest needs differ by modality. During COVID-19, a much larger proportion of web searches are seeking help with food, while phone requests are more likely to focus on housing, healthcare and mental health needs.
Shifting needs: mental health, housing, utility requests up
Americans needs are shifting 12 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. The fastest rising need? Mental health.
Tourist towns hurt by COVID
COVID-19 has been economically devastating to the leisure and hospitality industries and many people who work in them. Popular tourist destinations such as Las Vegas, NV, Atlantic City, NJ and Myrtle Beach, SC have seen dramatic increases in 2-1-1 calls since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
Do men and women call 2-1-1 for different reasons?
Americans calling 2-1-1 since COVID-19 are disproportionately women, but it varies a lot based on the caller’s needs. Nearly all requests (80-90%) for diapers and toilet paper, child care, and clothing and household items come from women.
One month ago: Biggest day in 2-1-1 history?
February 11th (i.e., 2-11) is recognized each year as National 2-1-1 Day. But if you’re looking for the most significant date in 2-1-1 history, it’s probably March 18th, 2020. One month ago today, 2-1-1s recorded the greatest number of requests in single day, 46,399, and that counts only the requests received by 2-1-1s in 24 […]
Where are food, rent and other needs rising and falling?
After 4 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, what changes can we see in Americans’ need for assistance with food, rent and other social needs? Data from 2-1-1 helplines indicate that it varies a lot by state. Requests for food assistance are still dramatically higher than normal in all states, but starting to gradually decline in […]
COVID-19 food, rent, utility needs in MO
Food requests in Missouri are more than twice as high as usual, but gradually declining from a COVID-19 peak on March 23rd. In contrast, there is no indication that the COVID-19 increase in requests for rent assistance is declining. We examined daily requests for food, rent and utility payment assistance received by the United Way […]
Utility Payment Assistance
Although the number of requests to 2-1-1 helplines for utility payment assistance have increased in most states during the COVID-19 pandemic, the increases are not as large or universal as those for food, rent assistance and other needs. Why? Very early on in the pandemic, some states suspended disconnection of utilities for non-payment. It’s possible […]