Day or Night, the 211 Helpline Has Been Here for Our Community

Who do you turn to for help when your house is destroyed by flood waters? Where do you go when you lose your job and can’t feed your family? Who can help when your spouse contracts COVID-19 and the medical bills start piling up?


The answer? United Way’s 211 Helpline.


During trying times like we’ve been experiencing, more people than ever need up-to-date information and access to local resources that can meet their needs. The 211 Helpline has worked really hard this last year to increase its capacity, expand outreach and partner with additional organizations so that they can serve even more of our neighbors.

In March, calls from people seeking information about COVID-19 started pouring in, and 211 became even busier after they started providing after-hours support for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Douglas County Health Department.


To accommodate the increase in demand, 211 invested in a scheduling software to accommodate the staff and volunteers taking calls and enhanced its texting capabilities to push out informational update texts to those who subscribe.


Here’s a quick snapshot of the volume of calls, texts, emails and web visits that 211 has received between the start of 2020 and the end of June, illustrating the increased need in our community:

# of calls/texts/emails
– 57,904

# avg. daily contacts
in 2020 – 320

# avg. daily contacts
in 2019 – 68

# web sessions
37,671 web sessions

Increase in texting –
102 vs 1221 = 1097% increase

In early March, Iowa Department of Public Health asked 211 to stand up as the COVID-19 hotline for the state of Iowa.  The UWM 211 Helpline answers calls for Western Iowa and the Quad Cities area 24/7, and for the entire state of Iowa evenings and weekends.

Top Areas of Need

4 top areas of need and the % of calls

Housing 30%

Utility Assistance 26%

Health Care 11%

Food 9%

Thanks to the generous support of the Nebraska legislature, LB641 was approved and signed into law last May,
providing $300,000 in state funding for two consecutive years to United Way’s 211 Helpline.

With the state funding, 211 reinstated 24/7 service, allowing it to serve additional Nebraskans.

Beginning in March 2020, the Helpline also utilized these funds to increase outreach efforts statewide, with the ultimate goal of building awareness around 211 and the resources it can help Nebraskans access. As part of this effort, United Way of the Midlands was able to partner with many local United Ways across the state of Nebraska.

Through this unified approach – and additional efforts such as distributing informational handouts to police, firefighters and educators
– United Ways were able to spread the word about this important resource so that more people could receive help and support.

Contact volume increased in the following red counties in Nebraska:

The 211 Helpline doesn’t plan to stop growing, expanding and improving anytime soon. Thanks to statewide funding, grants and other partnerships, the Helpline has been able to continue to broaden its capabilities and services to help the great states of Nebraska and Iowa. Some of its newest partnerships and offerings include the following: 

Help Me Grow

Help Me Grow aims to identify vulnerable children and link families to community-based programs and services. By utilizing United Way’s existing 211 Helpline, as a hub (with the addition of virtual services), Help Me Grow and 211 will be able to connect children and their families to community-based supports in Nebraska and provide seamless care coordination. Family members, child health care providers and other professionals will be able to contact 211 for information, support and referrals for children. The pilot is set to launch January 1 in Lancaster County, and expand across the state for several years.

Unite Nebraska

The 211 Helpline is partnering with NEHII (Nebraska Health Information Initiative) and Unite Us to form a statewide network that unites health care and human services organizations, creating a coordinated, community-oriented, person-centered approach for care delivery in Nebraska. The system launched on September 23 in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa. The system will go live for the rest of Nebraska over the next 18 months.

Opportunity Omaha

211 is exploring a partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce as part of their Thrive work. Together, they would develop a career and training navigator network to assist individuals looking for work or reconnecting with education/training.

Mobile App

211 is in the process of creating a mobile app to better connect people in need with resources. They plan to go live on January 1, 2021.

Additional Outreach

As we enter our next fiscal year, we are hard at work planning additional outreach efforts to spread the word about 211. More information will follow soon.

Thank you so much for supporting United Way of the Midlands and the efforts of its 211 Helpline! Together, we can ensure that more people in our community have the basic needs, education and financial stability supports they need to grow and thrive.

If you’re in need of counseling, food pantries, utility assistance or another human service, our 2-1-1 Helpline is here for you. Simply call 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898211 to find local programs that will help you address challenges by providing basic needs, education and financial supports.

Click here to learn more

United Way of the Midlands   |   2201 Farnam Street   |   Omaha, NE 68102   |   402-342-8232

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