You know 9-1-1, but have you heard of 2-1-1?

Congresswoman Eshoo seeks to expand 'resource' number to all Americans, including rural areas not now covered

A little-known phone number to help people find resources when they need them should be expanded to all Americans, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and three United Way officials said today at press conference in Sunnyvale.

The number is 2-1-1. The system was created a decade ago to assist people to find help or resources in non-emergency situations. Yet it "only reaches two-thirds of the U.S. population and includes less than half the counties in California," Eshoo said.

But it could also help people find work during a troubled economy, and thus aid in the national effort to recover from the current recession, she said.

Eshoo has introduced legislation that has received widespread bipartisan support in Congress. But the bill, called the "Calling for 211 Act," or H.R.211/S.211, will expire at the end of this congressional session if it is not brought up for a vote and approved, she warned.

Officials of United Way, which operates the phone line, shared the 9:30 a.m. press conference. Eshoo was joined by CEO Peter Manzo of United Ways of California, CEO Carole Leigh Hutton of United Way Silicon Valley and CEO Anne Wilson of United Way of the Bay Area.

Wilson, whose agency operates 211 in five Bay Area counties, said the line "is serving as a lifeline for struggling families during these tough times.

"All people, everywhere, need to be able to dial 211 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get the help they need in the event of a personal crisis or a regional disaster. This can only happen if H.R. 211 passes this year.

"Without federal funding, expanding our 211 call centers to adequately serve growing needs will be a significant challenge," she said.

Hutton said preserving 211 now is crucial, given that calls have increased 50 percent since the economic crisis began in 2008.

She said the 211 service "is a critical driver for economic recovery in our region -- and across the nation -- for Americans who need to connect with community services to help rebuild their lives."

"Without federal funding, current plans to expand 211 to the entire state of California cannot move forward," Manzo said. While the service exists in urban areas, Manzo said "rural counties, where health and human services are more scarce, are in even greater need of 211 to connect people with help." But those areas usually lack funds to pay for the service, he said.

"Calling for 211" has more than enough support in state Congress for passage -- 243 cosponsors in the House, 61 in the Senate -- but the bill will expire if it does not come up for a vote before the end of the year.

"I've worked hard to make sure the bill has the votes it needs to pass. Now I'm working closely with Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce to bring up the bill for a vote this year, preferably prior to our August recess," Eshoo said.

"People across the country can help with this effort by calling their legislators and asserting that 211 is a priority for their communities."

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Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Why not? Since funding is not a problem with all the extra money available to our government we would be fools to pass up spending on this!

There is a lot of other cool stuff we need too-let's have it all...

Like this comment
Posted by tj
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 3:57 am

Seems like a way of finding people who might want to sign up for welfare, food stamps, WIC and other goodies offered by the government. Heck, they'll pay your rent, get you food, mental health counseling, birth control, etc. Maybe even a shopping cart so you can push around your stuff. Get people as dependent on the government as possible, then you can control them.

Like this comment
Posted by Geez
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 6:01 am

Such a pressing problem to be resolved by our esteemed, full-time legislator looking for ways to use OPM to distribute! What I love...paying someone to do stuff I don't approve of..great!

Bummer that the 1/2-time legislator proposition didn't get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

A .5 legislature wouldn't have time for crap like this.

Like this comment
Posted by Tea Party hates United Way?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2010 at 9:10 am

So the Tea Party hates the United Way? Why don't you picket their headquarters to tell them what you really think about their programs? Here is the address of their Santa Clara County headquarters: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by dj
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2010 at 10:33 am

for tj -

It's not just people on "welfare" looking for help. I'm sure you know at least one person who has been affected by this recession. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and a life they have been building for years. People who have never had to ask for help in their life and are ashamed that they need it. They do not know who or where to go for help. 211 does refer people to government programs in some cases but they also offer referrals to nonprofit agencies that are doing good work to help people find work, lower cost housing, rising medical costs, counseling, and programs that help them in the short and long term to get back on their feet.

Like this comment
Posted by mel
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

You're nuts if you think welfare programs aren't designed to "get people back on their feet." They're designed to keep people on the welfare rolls so that the government bureaucrats who run these programs can continually argue that their jobs are necessary. Nobody in government wants to eliminate their own job. It's just the opposite. They want to expand dependency. And singing the blues about how bad things are is usually the ticket to more money and a larger bureaucratic empire. The 211 phone system is an example of somebody expanding a bureaucratic empire.

We'd be better off if we cut all benefits/welfare/food stamps for the jobless (not including the physically disabled, who truly deserve charity). Make the able-bodied poor out and find a job. Yes, there are jobs. Illegal aliens are good at finding these jobs, while lazy unemployed people collect their benefits and sit on the couch all day watching TV.

Like this comment
Posted by shocked
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2010 at 6:40 am

WOW! I cant believe the comments i read. I live on the east coast and we have had 211 for some time. This program is mostly formed of private organizations, volunteers, united way donations, citizen donations and yes some government funding. However, its not just to get money or politically ran. 211 provides susicide hotlines, domestic abuse vicitms support, junevile services, they can provide lists of churches/business that provide shelters for the homeless, warming and cooling stations,food and the list goes on and on. I really dont understand why anyone would put down something that helps our fellow americans and those truly in need.

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