FREE WEBINAR: 10/27 at 10 a.m. Learn More About United Way’s 211 Helpline

United Way’s Hudson Valley 2-1-1 helpline has been helping people in crisis since 2006 and has become a key resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. To amplify its mission, Hudson Valley 2-1-1 will hold a free webinar on October 27 at 10 a.m. to help front-line workers such as childcare workers, social workers, counselors, teachers, human resource professionals, and others in the helping professions learn how to use this valuable resource. Sign up at uwwp.org/211webinar. 

“Our call center specialists have a wealth of resources at their fingertips,’’ said The United Way of Westchester and Putnam President and CEO Tom Gabriel. “Using the resources available through the 2-1-1 helpline many organizations can more effectively connect their clients to the services that they need. We hope everyone will join us for this free, instructional program.’’ 

United Way’s 2-1-1 Referral Line handles an average of more than 80,000 calls a year from residents from Long Island to the Adirondacks. United Way’s 2-1-1 is a free, confidential, multilingual information (over 200 languages) and referral helpline open 365 days a year.

Nationally certified call specialists are trained to answer questions and provide referrals. In 2018, 2-1-1 added text messaging to its services As COVID-19 continues to unfold, 2-1-1 will be here for residents of the Hudson Valley, Long Island and upstate New York, answering questions about food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide, foster parenting, medical help and more. 

If you need help Dial 2-1-1.

211 Hotline Used for Heroes and Homebound Hot Meals Delivery Program

   Several nonprofits serving the Putnam County communities have partnered together to support those most affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by creating the Heroes and Homebound Hot Meals Delivery Program. Community Cares, the United Way of Westchester and Putnam and the Putnam County Business Council have coordinated their efforts to provide restaurant-prepared meals to Putnam County residents who are senior citizens, disabled, or who are immune-compromised as well as first responders and healthcare workers. The efforts will support the local economy by using Putnam County restaurants.

  “It is during times of crisis that Putnam County has a history of coming together and providing for one another,” said Amy Sayegh, founder of Community Cares. “This project allows us to protect those populations who are vulnerable to the effects of the Coronavirus while also providing a way to show our appreciation to those working on the front lines and put money back into our local economy.”

   Community Cares, a nonprofit that provides meals, house cleaning, and laundry services to families that are going through a medical crisis, will match up to $10,000 to pay for the family-style meals. The Putnam County Business Council has engaged the participation of restaurants from each community in the county. United Way of Westchester and Putnam will be identifying eligible recipients through its 211 Helpline and then coordinating the prepared meals with the recipients and the volunteer delivery drivers. 

   “Communities rely on their local businesses, especially restaurants, to support their causes throughout the year,” said Jennifer Mahopac, chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council. “With all the restrictions this public health emergency has put on all of us, this is a great way to give back to those restaurants that have supported our communities for so long and help our residents.”

     In addition to working with the restaurants, these organizations are also recruiting volunteers to help deliver the meals. 

   “By working together we can have a greater impact on the Putnam County residents who need it, but we need the help of the public too,” said United Way of Westchester and Putnam CEO Tom Gabriel. “We are also looking for volunteers to deliver meals. You will not be in contact with the recipients, so we remain in line with the public health guidelines.” The deliveries will be dropped outside of the recipient’s door and gloves will also be provided.

   To be eligible for the meals, the recipient must be one of the following: a senior citizen, disabled, actively seeking treatment for chronic or terminal disease, a first responder–law enforcement, firefighter, EMS worker; or a healthcare worker. Verification will be required to ensure the standards of the program. There are no income restrictions for this program. The meals are for the household of the eligible recipient.

    Those interested in receiving meals can call 211.

    Donations can be done through the Community Cares website, communitycares.org, or on its Facebook page.

    Restaurants in Putnam County, which are interested in providing family-style meals-to-go for a set price, or individuals who want to be a volunteer delivery driver should email covid19@communitycares.org.

Putnam Follows Westchester and Makes 211 Helpline its Point of Information for the Public

On March 22, Putnam County Government deemed United Way’s 211 Helpline as its point of information for the public during the COVID-19 emergency.

Emergency Services and the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) are asking residents to help reduce the incoming call volume now and in the coming weeks. Putnam County residents can now call the easy-to-remember 2-1-1 number for updated, non-emergent Coronavirus information. As a timely reminder, 2-1-1 is a universally recognizable number that builds a critical connection, especially in times of need, between individuals and families and the appropriate community-based organizations and government agencies.

“Keeping the phone lines open for our health department, hospitals, 9-1-1 staff and community partners is a top priority,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “They are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of you the resident. The 211 operators are now able to answer Putnam-related questions or direct you to the proper resources. We thank them for stepping in to help in this evolving situation.”

Tom Gabriel, President and CEO, United Way of Westchester and Putnam says, “We’re pleased to now partner with Putnam County to support their residents. We have worked with Westchester County with great success. People should know that by calling the United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline for COVID-19 information, you reduce the call volume that might otherwise bog down 9-1-1 dispatchers.”

The 2-1-1 operators are equipped with the latest updates from Putnam as the impact of Coronavirus evolves. Callers to 2-1-1 can receive reliable information such as, symptoms of the virus, how to access vital services and up to date case numbers. Their website at www.uwwp.org also provides updated numbers of confirmed cases in Putnam, Westchester and the surrounding counties.

211 Helpline Call Volume Continues to Surge

United Way’s 211 helpline received over 6,000 calls with 1,500 Coronavirus-specific calls, and we anticipate these to increase in the hours, days and weeks to come. We are currently fielding more than 100 calls that are coronavirus-specific per day. Residents from every county and community are calling 211, with the largest number being from New Rochelle (58%), followed by White Plains (15%), Yonkers (14%), Scarsdale (8%) and Mount Vernon (5%).

Every day 211 operates 24/7 and regularly works remotely. Our call center will continue to do so, answering questions, providing information, and even to calming a caller’s understandable anxiety about the unknown.

To help manage this increased demand caused by the pandemic, United Way core staff and temporary staff, originally assigned to Earned Income Tax Credit screening, are supplementing call centers phone lines.

Coronavirus increases United Way’s 211 Helpline call volume by 20%

Since Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced that United Way’s 211 Helpline would be the public’s point of information about the coronavirus, call volume has jumped at the White Plains call center. Between March 4 and March 8, the call specialists have received about 500 calls and the count continues to grow. This is on top of the 2,900 calls received during the week of March 1-8 about other health and human service needs as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit screenings and Free Tax Appointment scheduling.

Join us in saying “Great Job” to the 211 Team!

There are now 98 confirmed coronavirus cases in Westchester County. There are 142 cases throughout New York State.

Find out the latest information about the coronavirus.

See the watch about 211 on News 12

Read the Journal News piece about the 211 Helpline

Journal News: ‘Coronavirus: Inside the Westchester call center’

WHITE PLAINS – Another call came into Westchester County’s nerve center for handling coronavirus queries and worries on Wednesday, and specialist Elyse Lento picked up.

“Does your mom have any symptoms of anything or is she feeling fine at this point?” asked Lento. “And you’re saying she hasn’t had any direct contact with anyone who has the virus — she should be all right.” READ MORE

TELL NYS TO PUT 211 BACK IN THE BUDGET

Governor Andrew Cuomo did not include funding for the 211 Helpline in the New York State 2020-21 executive budget. New York State 211 is looking for State legislators to support 2-1-1 by providing the following funding in our one-house budget proposal:

  • $1.5 million (OCFS) for 2-1-1 to: 
    • Maintain current level of services (24/7/365) and provide seasonal resources for additional staffing needs during the tax season;
    • Continuously improve infrastructure and points of access to 2-1-1 services;
    • Collect, manage and analyze data; and
    • Provide outreach and public awareness.
  • $500,000 for 2-1-1 to build infrastructure specifically for disaster response and enhance 2-1-1’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner.

Read the testimony that United Way of Westchester and Putnam President and CEO Tom Gabriel gave the Westchester delegation of the New York Assembly.

Good morning members of the Westchester Delegation to the New York State Assembly, esteemed guests, and members of the community.

I am Tom Gabriel, the new President and CEO of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam.

Although I’ve only been on the job four months, and still can’t find the coffee or where we keep paper clips, I do know how to find help when I’m in a crisis… all I have to do is call the United Way’s 2-1-1 Helpline.  This free and confidential program plays a vital role in Westchester County as well as the entire State connecting people to nonprofit programs and government services.

Once again, Governor Cuomo did not include 2-1-1 in his Executive Budget. While we recognize the budget challenges, we also recognize the very real challenges faced by 13.6% of New York State residents living in poverty and another 31% living paycheck to paycheck. 

New York State is rich in resources and there is a robust network of programs and services to assist our neighbors in need.  But finding those resources is harder than merely Googling for an answer. 

2-1-1 has proven over the past 15 years to be the most efficient way to connect families to the programs and services they need. 

2-1-1 employees are highly trained and empathetic people, responding in real time, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year, when our neighbors are in crisis or just don’t know where to turn for help.  We have bi-lingual staff and also have the capability through a language line to help callers in 200 languages.

In 2019, statewide, 2-1-1 received more than 1.8 million phone calls, more than a million web visits, and almost 10,000 text contacts.  Here in Westchester alone, our local United Way has helped more than 270,000 people since 2-1-1’s inception. 

These are your constituents… looking for information on basic needs like food, shelter, legal services, child care, physical and mental health, and so much more. 

Like Richard who didn’t know where to turn to find help for his brother Will who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and couldn’t take care of himself. 

Or Molly who called 2-1-1 because she had thoughts of suicide and didn’t know where to turn. 

Or Joy, who called because her SNAP benefit was deactivated and she didn’t know who to call.

That is why we are requesting a $1.5 million investment for SFY 20-21 budget.  This will maintain current level of services and provide seasonal resources for additional staffing needs during the tax season.

We are also requesting an additional $500,000 for SFY 20-21 budget for 2-1-1 to build infrastructure specifically for disaster response and enhance 2-1-1’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner.  During times of disaster, 2-1-1 becomes the link to information and support as well as a conduit for real-time information.  The high-marks we received during our recent participation in the County’s Indian Point drill show that we are an important partner supporting your work. And as we all know, disasters are a matter of when, not if. 

As a public-private partnership, it is critical for New York State to support 2-1-1.  Without it, hundreds of thousands of residents in crisis will have nowhere to turn to find help. 

That is why we are asking for your support once again this year.

Thank you.

UNITED WAY’S 211 HELPLINE SCREENS EITC ELIGIBILITY AND SCHEDULES FREE TAX PREPARATION

White Plains, NY (January 31, 2020) –Are you eligible for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and a larger refund? United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline helps residents find out with free screenings for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and tax preparation assistance.

On the opening day of tax season this year, the 211 Call Center in White Plains received over 1,000 client interactions (calls and texts) between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. The 211 call specialists are able to identify EITC eligibility and schedule free tax preparation by IRS-certified volunteers at locations throughout the Hudson Valley, with many sites in Westchester and Putnam.

January 31 marks the 14th anniversary of Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free tax preparation sites. This year, IRS and United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline are promoting EITC and encouraging residents to find out if they are eligible for the tax credit. The IRS estimates that only four-out-of-five workers claim the EITC they earned. This leaves billions of dollars on the table each year.

Lini Jacob, Senior Vice President of United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline, said that this is one of the ways that United Way helps the ALICE population, those workers earning a low- to -moderate level income who are living paycheck-to paycheck. According to the ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) Report released by United Way in 2018, 30 percent of the residents living in Westchester and Putnam are earning less than a livable wage and are struggling to make ends meet.

“We want to get the word out to those who are eligible to file a tax return even if they don’t owe any tax to claim the EITC,” said Jacob. “Its money workers can use for groceries, rent, utilities and other bills.”

In 2019, 25 million workers received more than $63 billion in EITC refunds. United Way’s 211 Helpline assisted almost 4,000 residents in Westchester and Putnam receive refunds collectively totaling $9.8 million.

If you worked last year and had income of less than $55,952 check out your eligibility for EITC. EITC can mean up to a $6,557 refund when you file a return if you have qualifying children. Workers without a qualifying child could be eligible for a smaller credit up to $529. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average amount credited for 2019 was $2,476.

Since the EITC is complex, 211 call specialists are trained to determine eligibility. It varies by income, family size, and your filing status. To be eligible, you must have earned income or certain disability income. This means you must have income from working for someone or working for yourself.

The call specialists also set up free tax preparation appointments done by volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Westchester or the by Hudson CA$H Coalition in Putnam. These volunteers prepare and e-file (electronically file) your tax return at no cost to you.

“Our community volunteers help you get EITC and the maximum refund you’re due. Our goal is to help you get it and get it right. This is money you can save or use to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or make a down payment on a home. Let us help make your life a little easier,” said Jacob.

To find out if you qualify for EITC and/or to schedule an appointment at a volunteer free tax return preparation site, call 211 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day through April 15.

Through United Way’s 211 Call Center, live trained professionals provide referral services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week about food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide, foster parenting, medical help and more. The call center handles about 80,000 calls a year.

Call specialists have an expansive database at their fingertips that they can use to search out resources by zip code. They also have access to a service that can translate 200 languages from Swahili to Mandarin. Several call specialists are also fluent in Spanish, which is the most common second language spoken by callers.

Individuals can reach a live Community Resource Specialist by dialing 211. To reach the 211 Helpline via text, send your zip code to 898211 (txt211). Its database is also available online at 211hudsonvalley.org. United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline serves residents in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.

UNITED WAY’S HUDSON VALLEY 211 HELPLINE EXPANDS ITS TEXT MESSAGING CAPACITY

(WHITE PLAINS, NY – January 2, 2020 ) United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline is increasing the number of hours text messaging is available to better serve the needs of the community. People can now text for help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Since we launched the text messaging feature last February, we have monitored its usage and believe that by doubling the number of hours we can offer text messaging to the public we will be able to address the needs of exponentially more individuals,” said Lini Jacob, senior vice president of United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline.

The hours of the text messaging capabilities coincide with when the Hudson Valley 211 Call Center receives the most amount of calls to maximize its usage.  United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline serves residents in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.

Through United Way’s 211 Call Center, live trained professionals provide referral services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week about food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide, foster parenting, medical help and more. The call center handles about 80,000 calls a year.

Call specialists have an expansive database at their fingertips that they can use to search out resources by zip code. They also have access to a service that can translate 200 languages from Swahili to Mandarin. Several call specialists are also fluent in Spanish, which is the most common second language spoken by callers.

To reach the 211 Helpline via text, send your zip code to 898211 (txt211). Individuals can reach a live Community Resource Specialist by dialing 211. Its database is also available online at 211hudsonvalley.org.