Arizona’s 211 services hotline sees spike in calls during pandemic

Oct 2, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 10:22 am
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — The statewide 211 hotline connecting Arizonans with essential services has seen a spike in calls during the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotline, known as 211 Arizona, got about 210,000 calls from March 20 to Aug. 31. That’s more than triple what it was during the same time last year.

“This really is showing that there is a demand and a need for information referral services,” said Justin Chase, president and CEO of Crisis Response Network, which runs the hotline.

At the request of Gov. Doug Ducey in March, the hotline became the state’s go-to for COVID-19 resources.

Chase said utility assistance is the top reason why people have called, followed by assistance with housing expenses, such as rent and mortgage. The third-highest need has been disaster relief often related to COVID-19 and heat relief.

Some have also called for help with emergency shelter, food, subsidized housing and low-cost housing.

Chase said before the pandemic, utility assistance and housing expenses assistance were the top reasons people called the 211 hotline.

“We just didn’t see the numbers at this volume,” he said.

More than 30 staff members have been hired to answer calls since March, using COVID-19 relief funding and money from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Prior to that, the hotline was fully automated, which Chase said presented challenges for people with complex needs.

He added staff members are able to “look at the comprehensive needs of a family.”

“They may be sitting in front of a utility bill and that’s their primary reason for the call,” Chase said. “But our staff are skilled to be able to work with them and say, ‘what do we need to do about your rent? Is this an employment issue? Is there a need for other services and resources to be able to get you back on their feet?’”

In addition to the hotline, services can also be accessed through 211 Arizona’s website and mobile app.

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Arizona’s 211 services hotline sees spike in calls during pandemic