Massachusetts United Way organizations from across the Commonwealth are today urging the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees and the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight to invest $1M in American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funding in Mass211, the a 24/7 statewide hotline that connects residents across the Commonwealth to vital information and life-sustaining health and human services. Mass211 was founded in 2006 and is funded by United Ways across Massachusetts. The 211 system is critical to United Way’s mission of providing health, education and financial stability for every person in every community in the Commonwealth.
According to the testimony submitted today by 14 Massachusetts United Way organizations on behalf of Mass211:
“Mass211 has emerged as a critical lifeline during the COVID-19 crisis. During the past year, Mass 211 has fielded 491,545 phone calls from residents living in municipalities across the Commonwealth—a 124% increase in call volume compared to the previous year. Importantly, 48% of callers’ requests were directly related to COVID-19, and over 25% of calls were for assistance addressing mental health needs. Other top requests included seeking help accessing the state’s eviction diversion program, emergency shelter, early education and afterschool care, and utility payment assistance.
Over the last 18 months, Mass211 has disseminated valuable, necessary, and vetted information on behalf of the Commonwealth. Available every day of the year without interuption and in over 150 languages, Mass211 has a pulse on community-level needs and has a proven track record of connecting residents to the services and referrals that they need. In addition to those who were already familiar with Mass211 services, the number of first-time callers has increased exponentially this past year, as a result of many state departments and agencies pointing residents to our services. Due to positive satisfaction with our service, many first-time callers have become repeat callers, resulting in increases to call volume that have been sustained.
In order to minimize call wait times and significant bottlenecks in phone traffic, Mass211 needs additional resources from the state to cover increased training, staffing and equipment needs. Therefore, Mass211 respectfully requests $1,000,000 in ARPA funding to ensure that all calls are answered in a professional, informational and timely manner as we all work collaboratively to overcome the many long-term hardships caused by COVID-19. “
United Way organizations signing on to this request with Mass211 include Acton-Boxborough United Way, Berkshire United Way, Cape & Islands United Way, United Way of Central Massachusetts, United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region, United Way of Greater Fall River, United Way of Greater New Bedford, United Way of Greater Plymouth County, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Northern Berkshire United Way, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, United Way of Pioneer Valley, United Way of South Central Massachusetts, and Tri-County United Way.