PRESS RELEASE– Recognizing a growing need for services following the release of its ALICE report in November, the United Way of Westchester and Putnam announced several initiatives today to expand services provided by its 2-1-1 call center and urged the state to continue funding its operation.
United Way’s 2-1-1 call center, first opened in 2006, provides referral services to people seeking information on food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide, recycling regulations, foster parenting, medical help and more.
Alana Sweeny, CEO and president of United Way of Westchester and Putnam announced that the Hudson Valley 2-1-1 call center had expanded its services by four hours now open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. as of January 1, but that it hoped to provide 24/7 services.
“While the Governor has not put 2-1-1 in his budget we are counting on our state legislators like Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee to continue supporting 2-1-1 as they have always done because they know how important it is to the residents of the Hudson Valley,’’ said Sweeny at a news conference at United Way’s White Plains offices.
A recent United Way report on working poor showed that nearly a third of Westchester residents and more than a third of Rockland residents were ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed), meaning that their incomes were not sufficient to cover their expenses on a consistent basis even though they live well above the poverty line. The 2-1-1 call line and access to vital services helps these families to survive, Sweeny said.
Mimi Vilord, President and CEO of United Way of Rockland, announced that as of Feb. 17 Hudson Valley’s 2-1-1 call center had begun handling calls from Rockland County’s Health and Information Services Line (InfoRock). She called the transition “seamless,” saying calls were transferred directly to 2-1-1 operators. The only change, she said, was additional resources provided by the highly trained operators.
“This is a win-win situation for Rockland residents,’’ she said. “Residents receive even broader services, as well as additional services of multi-lingual translators.”
Joe Falco, LMFT Coordinator at Rockland Community College, reported that a new partnership with 2-1-1, which offered assistance to students, was producing some very dramatic results. Falco said that the cost of tuition was not the only obstacle to a college education. He said many students are forced to drop out because of difficulty obtaining vital services such as food and housing. He credited the new referral service at RCC as a factor in a dramatic decline of the class withdrawal rate at RCC from 51 percent to 21 percent.
NYS State Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins pledged her support for 2-1-1 saying that she has seen its benefits first hand. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee also pledged her support and said that she was encouraged that Rockland residents would now be served by the 2-1-1 line, which she described as vital.
Westchester County Board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said he has been a long-time supporter of 2-1-1, pushing for its creation in 2006. He said it is a vital service that helps the county to better assist constituents.