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United Way of Greater Cleveland's 211 HelpLink sees uptick in calls asking for food help

United Way 211
Posted at 9:21 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 09:21:27-04

CLEVELAND — It's the start of a new month and bills are coming in.

With nearly one million Ohioans out of work due to the coronavirus, making payments on time is a struggle.

If you're one of many people struggling to make a payment or find your next meal, there is help.

The United Way of Greater Cleveland said their 2-1-1 HelpLink is recording an uptick in calls. During March, they had double the call volume. In April, the volume slowed a bit but it still higher than usual.

"We're averaging now about 700 calls a day," said Franco Formichelli, the director 2-1-1 HelpLink. "Over the last five weeks, we've gotten about 21,000 calls from residents."

Formichelli predicts the call volume to increase due to a new month and the state beginning to reopen.

The agency has about 30 agents ready to take calls. They are open 24 hours a day and seven days a week connecting people with the resources they need.

"We have a robust database of agencies that can provide service to really cover anybody's needs," he said.

Prior to the pandemic, the United Way of Greater Cleveland was serving seven counties in Ohio: Allen, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lawrence, Medina and Ross. Since the pandemic, the agency took on an additional seven counties. Their coverage now includes: Coshocton, Crawford, Darke, Erie, Huron, Van Wert and Wyandot counties.

"We knew there was going to be people out there in those counties that have no 2-1-1 services and need resources and we can actually help out. So we were able to help out those seven additional counties," Formichelli said.

During the coronavirus outbreak, The United Way of Greater Cleveland said the top five resources people are asking for help with are: food, information services, income support, housing and utilities assistance.

Formichelli said most of the time those are the typical needs callers are looking for, however, food has jumped to the top of the list and is up 300% compared to 2019.

The 2-1-1 HelpLink is confidential and the agency will not share your information with anyone.