A new statewide report shows challenges within the 211 Texas system could hinder Texans seeking assistance, including state benefits and access to local resources. The United Ways of Texas report also shows state leaders continue to neglect this vital state-owned resource despite the increased demands on 211 call centers following the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic instability. The full report can be found on our website.
In our community, 211 is operated by United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and is available 24/7/365. 211 call centers use a comprehensive database to connect callers to critical community resources that provide assistance with barriers related to shelter, food insecurity, child care and more.
Key report findings include:
- Call volume was up in San Antonio in 2020 by 70%, increased by nearly 40% statewide in 2020 and continues to remain elevated over pre-pandemic levels.
- State funding for 211 has remained stagnant for nearly 14 years, despite increased operational costs and financial strains experienced by community-based organizations running 211 call centers.
- Many organizations managing 211 call centers are investing their own limited resources—up to 50% of the cost of operations—due to the state’s inadequate funding for call center operations.
- Operational issues within the state’s benefits and eligibility call line (211, Option 2) has led more Texans to contact 211 regional call centers (211, Option 1) for assistance. This has resulted in an increase in call volume and wait times to an already strained information and referral network.
- 211 Texas is behind other states in terms of efficiency, innovation and system integration and needs critical technology and communications enhancements.
211 connects Texans in need to community-based resources 24/7, every day of the year. In addition to providing information and referral services, 211 Texas is the state’s front door to a variety of services–including information and referral services, state benefits and eligibility and disaster support. 211 is also a rich source of data regarding the needs of Texans and the availability of services in communities across the state.
The report comes as the 88th Texas Legislative session nears its halfway point. It aims to increase awareness and understanding of 211 Texas, identify the system’s limitations and highlight opportunities that would enhance 211’s role in improving the well-being of communities across the state.
A number of policy recommendations for state leaders are included in the report, such as increasing investment in the operational capacity of regional 211 call centers, funding and activating technological capabilities that would allow 211 regional call centers to better address local needs, increasing investment in the state’s benefits and eligibility call line.