United Way’s 211 Helpline to Aid in Application Completion of NYS Excluded Worker Fund

Under a new grant award from the NYS Department of Labor, United Way’s 211 Helpline of the Hudson Valley Region is now conducting education and assistance for Hudson Valley residents who think they may qualify for the newly established New York State Excluded Workers Fund.  The Excluded Workers Fund offers financial relief to workers who have suffered income loss due to COVID-19 but who are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance or related federal benefits.

New York is one of only a handful of states to aid these excluded workers when it created a $2.1 billion aid fund in this year’s State budget. New York’s Excluded Worker Fund (EWF) is the first entirely state-administered and state-funded program in the nation to bring relief to individuals excluded from government-issued economic relief.  Some 300,000 New Yorkers are expected to directly benefit.  This one-time payment is a culmination of a year’s long advocacy effort by the over two hundred organizations.  United Way of Westchester and Putnam, which manages the 211 Helpline for the Hudson Valley Region, is one of several nonprofit organizations statewide to receive funding to offer New Yorkers support and assistance with the online application process.

Residents who show adequate proof of eligibility may qualify for the Excluded Workers Fund benefit that provides a one-time payment to eligible workers who lost their jobs or income during the benefit period (through April 1, 2021). New York State residents may qualify for EWF benefits in one of two amounts, depending on the amount of work proof you are able to provide:

Tier 1 – $15,600 (minus taxes); OR • Tier 2 – $3,200 (minus taxes.)

Qualifications include: having lived in New York State before March 2020 and continue to live in New York State; Are not eligible for and did not receive unemployment insurance, COVID-19 income relief, or other specific benefits from the state or federal government; earned less than $26,208 in the 12 months before April 2021; and lost income during the period from through April 1, 2021, because you became unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19.  Residents may also qualify if they became responsible for most of the household income because the head of your household died or became disabled.

For the latest information and to learn more about eligibility for the Excluded Worker Fund (EWF) please visit on. dol.ny.gov/EWF. For further assistance in the EWF application process dial 211.

United Way’s 211 Helpline of the Hudson Valley Region located in White Plains, NY, is a free and confidential, information and referral service. Nationally certified call specialists are available 24/7 in over 200 languages to answer questions about food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide, foster parenting, medical help, and more. In 2020, the call center answered 114,000 calls. www.211hudsonvalley.org

United Way to Help with Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Applications

United Way of Westchester and Putnam (UWWP) has partnered with the City of Mount Vernon to aid with New York State’s ERAP applications. 

An informational fair is being held in the Mt. Vernon Public Library, located on 28 S 1st Ave, on July 31st from 9am-1pm to provide information on the application process. Afterwards, eligible residents will be able to call United Way’s 211 hotline to schedule a sit-down appointment with a trained volunteer who will assist with the application. 

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of families nationwide fell behind on their rent and are now facing eviction and homelessness. ERAP allows eligible families to apply for rental assistance worth up to 12 months of unpaid rent, and an additional 3 months of future rent in certain circumstances. Assistance is also available for up to 12 months of unpaid utilities. Eligible families include those who make 80% or less of the area’s median income, have suffered hardship due to the pandemic, have accrued rental arrears, and are at risk for housing instability or homelessness. 

Programs like ERAP are especially needed in Westchester County. With thousands of families struggling to pay rent, and the eviction moratorium due to expire on August 31st, this program could not have come at a more fitting time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many people lost their jobs and have not been able to afford basic needs like food and rent. The government instituted a moratorium on evictions in recognition of these circumstances. Even though these people may be working again, many of them will not be able to make up the rent that they have missed. The purpose of ERAP is to erase the past debt so that families can concentrate on the future.

“In Mount Vernon nearly 1500 families are facing eviction as moratoriums are set to expire,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard.  “There are resources available to help these families and those who are precariously perched on the verge of homelessness. It is imperative that residents who are in need of assistance show up. I urge Mount Vernon residents take full advantage of these opportunities and I am glad to work with partners like the United Way to ensure that they do.”

United Way of Westchester and Putnam will be recruiting volunteers through Volunteer New York and existing UWWP volunteers. Volunteers will assist eligible residents in completing their applications and scanning and uploading required documents. Volunteers will be trained and will undergo background checks in advance.

“Without stable housing, individuals and families are put at risk, which impacts the larger community. We are proud to partner with the City of Mount Vernon to ensure that those who were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic stay in their homes so they can thrive.” said Tom Gabriel, president and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam.

To schedule an appointment with a volunteer visit www.211hudsonvalley.org/erap

More information on ERAP can be found on the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance’s website: https://otda.ny.gov/programs/emergency-rental-assistance/. Information can also be found on Mt Vernon’s Department of Planning website.

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


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.