United Way of South Central Kentucky’s 2-1-1 resource hotline has seen a declining number of phone calls related to issues concerning COVID-19 over the last few weeks.
Operated by United Way of South Central Kentucky, the hotline is a free and confidential 24/7 referral service that helps connect callers to local resources in times of need.
United Way 2-1-1 Contact Center Manager April Owens said the number of calls has varied over the course of the year.
She said the center received about 100 calls a day at the start of the pandemic. Now, the center fields 25 to 30 calls a day, but COVID-19 is still the dominant topic of concern from callers.
“We were fortunate enough that we had other members in our United Way team who were able to provide adequate backup at the time,” Owens said. “Our systems are web-based so a lot of our workers are able to work from home. Our biggest problem we faced was getting adequate headsets.”
The start of the pandemic brought a multitude of questions and worries from the public on the hotline, but Owens said calls now mainly focus on assisting the public with rent, utilities and food concerns.
“As time has gone on, we have seen a greater increase in people seeking assistance with essential needs,” Owens said. “Some people are still out of work and are having a difficult time maintaining things like rent. Thankfully, the amount of people out of work has been declining.”
Another area of concern the center has been dealing with recently are individuals who are still waiting for their unemployment payments.
Owens said these calls have also decreased greatly in number, but there is still a bit of a backlog with the system as any missing documents could hold up a specific claim for weeks or even months.
While United Way workers are able to work at home, they are also able to work at the center where everyone has their own office and enough space to socially distance.
For anyone calling the hotline, Owens said they will be answered by caring and compassionate specialists who will not judge any circumstance. Instead, they will ask basic demographic questions that are not required to be answered. Callers will then be put in touch with a specific organization that will assist their needs.
United Way employees search through their database of organizations to make sure callers are put in touch with the adequate service.
The 2-1-1 hotline only covers around 70% of the state as Kentucky does not have a statewide system yet. Therefore, United Way of Southern Kentucky has taken upon the task of serving the 10-county Barren River region by handling area calls.
“It’s a scary situation as some people who call don’t even know their financial situation after they have lost their job,” Owens said. “But even if we get a call from someone who isn’t from our region, we are able to redirect them to the correct location.”
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.