United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 Helplink Serves as An Anchor to a Community in Need, Marking National 2-1-1 Day with Nearly 200,000 Calls Handled Since the Covid-19 Pandemic Began

Cuyahoga County and United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink partnered to open a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccination Information Line, available 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. every Monday – Friday, providing resources, referrals and assistance to seniors and others who wish to schedule and receive the vaccine

CLEVELAND (February 11, 2021) – United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 HelpLink marked National 2-1-1 Day today, having handled nearly 200,000 calls since March 2020 from people in need of resources and assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with calls now averaging more than 450 per day.

United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink is a free, anonymous referral service, handling calls from those who need help accessing hundreds of resources, including housing support, utility assistance, food and meal access and more.

Dedicated COVID-19 Vaccination Information Line Opened Jan. 25

On Jan. 25, United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink partnered with Cuyahoga County to expand its services, opening a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccination Information Line, which operates every Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

"It's been nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the needs of individuals and families within the Cleveland community have only grown," said Augie Napoli, United Way of Greater Cleveland's president and chief executive officer. "United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 HelpLink is committed to serving as an anchor for anyone in need of resources and assistance. Last month, we expanded our 2-1-1 HelpLink services to offer a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccination Information Line in partnership with Cuyahoga County which has already received more than 12,000 calls."

Cuyahoga County and United Way funded the addition of 15 temporary staff members to work closely with callers over a 10-week period to locate providers, determine eligibility and answer questions about additional documentation or requirements necessary to register to receive the vaccine. Nearly 90 providers, including hospitals, primary care physicians and pharmacies, now offer COVID-19 vaccinations across Cuyahoga County. Mondays are peak days for call volume as new vaccination registrations and appointments open up for the week.

The top three needs expressed by callers to 2-1-1 HelpLink's COVID-19 Vaccination Information Line include:

  1. Registration assistance
  2. Registration status assistance for those who have already registered but have not yet heard back from a provider
  3. Eligibility questions

Callers dialing 2-1-1 on their phone can select option "3" to speak directly with one of 2-1-1 HelpLink's staff members trained to provide COVID-19 vaccination-related resources, referrals and assistance. In the event of hold times, callers can select 2-1-1's "Call Back" feature where a caller inputs their desired call back number, and an available navigator returns the call when it's that callers turn in the queue.

The United Way 2-1-1 HelpLink Experience

United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink experience is simple, friendly, free and confidential. People in need of assistance dial 2-1-1 and are connected with one of United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink navigation specialists who asks a series of questions about the caller's circumstances. In one out of every three calls, navigation specialists identify multiple areas of need where additional resources and assistance are provided.

United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink navigation specialists develop customized plans tailored to a caller's urgency, proximity to resources, physical abilities and more using United Way of Greater Cleveland's Community Resource Database of more than 16,000 government, health and human services programs.

Once the caller understands how to access the resources they need, the call ends but United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink experience continues. Depending on the program, the navigation specialist follows up with the caller after a few hours or days to ensure the information provided was accurate and accessible — a logistical feat that United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink's navigation specialists accomplish with more than 100,000 unique data checks and entries to the Community Resource Database each year.

Those who wish to do so can also chat online with a 2-1-1 navigation specialist by visiting https://www.211oh.org/.

The top five overall needs for callers to United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink this year include:

  1. Utility assistance, including help with electric, gas and water bill payments
  2. Housing services, including rent payment assistance and shelters
  3. Food or meal assistance, including food pantry and soup kitchen locations
  4. Legal, consumer and public safety needs, including help with birth certificate fees
  5. Information services, including employment and tax preparation services

During the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 HelpLink expanded from serving seven to 14 counties within Ohio, including Allen, Belmont, Coshocton, Crawford, Cuyahoga, Darke, Erie, Geauga, Huron, Lawrence, Medina, Ross, Van Wert and Wyandot.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the average call volume at United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink has doubled, often exceeding 6,000 calls per week.

To view and access United Way's 2-1-1 HelpLink video and footage, click here.

To listen to a conversation between a person in need and a 2-1-1 HelpLink navigation specialist, visit: https://www.211oh.org/how-we-help/process.

For more information on the calls that 2-1-1 HelpLink answers each month and the success rates for each need, visit: https://www.211oh.org/reports.

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About United Way of Greater Cleveland
Founded in 1913, United Way of Greater Cleveland is a local, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty across the Greater Cleveland area. The largest private-sector investor of health and human services, United Way invests in efforts that address poverty using a two-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the daily issues affecting those living in poverty, the Community Hub for Basic Needs. The second drives research and innovation through the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, focused on identifying long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty. For more information, visit
www.unitedwaycleveland.org.