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.


United Way’s Hudson Valley 211 Helpline participated in the Indian Point Emergency Drill on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Our 211 Helpline, which is housed at our White Plains location, is Westchester County’s point of information center for its residents in an emergency. Emergency management professionals observed the 211 call center specialists in action and reported that the team was “impressive” and that there were “no recommendations for improvement.”

Congratulations to the 211 Team!