United Way of Central Maryland hosted a town hall to discuss what's needed, where it's needed and what we're doing to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view the town hall above; questions that were asked during the chat are answered below.
In addition to information gathering, research, and increasing 211 capacity, where has United Way applied direct interventions within the community during COVID-19? What has been the most effective?
United Way believes that all initiatives to improve lives and neighborhoods are worthwhile and productive—especially during a crisis. That said, here are just a few examples of how we’re meeting immediate needs in addition to the thousands of 211 calls we answer:
- Working with Door Dash to provide food to those who can’t get to food distribution sites
- Working with Lyft to get people rides to food distribution and healthcare sites, and to their workplaces
- Partnered with Holly Poultry, Nature’s Yoke, H&S Bakery, and State Street Poultry and Provisions to distribute 60,000 pounds of chicken to people and organizations in need, as well as the makings for 30,000 breakfast sandwiches to health care providers
- Provided funding for food pantries that were nearing the point of closing their doors
- Provided funding to the Maryland Food Bank to assist them with their operations
- Connect hundreds of volunteers to virtual and other opportunities
- Provided training and tech equipment to 80 volunteers so they could help answer 211 calls
- Delivered food and diapers to Baltimore neighborhoods
- Delivered education packets to Baltimore students so they could continue their schooling
- Worked with the court system to move the Veterans Treatment Docket to virtual court so our veterans could continue to receive services (The Veterans Treatment Court program is supported by a grant from the Maryland Judiciary’s Office of Problem-Solving Courts.)
- Moved family stability program case managers to virtual operations so that the families they work with can continue receiving services
- Created a partnership to provide mental health services to 211 callers
- Provided cleaning and sanitization boxes for area nonprofits to help keep their staff and clients safe
Are you able to model projected needs with the information that we now have from your sources?
Yes. We can project needs based on trends in calls to 211, funding application requests, and information obtained from other nonprofits and collaboratives such as those affiliated with workforce development, homelessness, healthcare, and others.
With the challenges of people losing their jobs, and people unable to leave their homes, how can we help support our neighbors and the community at this time?
Donate to our COVID-19 Community Fund! This fund is providing help where it’s needed, when it’s needed—right now, and in the future, when we know there will be great need. This fund, 100% allocated to community need, helps individuals and families, as well as first responders and other nonprofits that are strained beyond their capacities due to the impact of the virus.
Our volunteers are one of our greatest assets. For safe, remote volunteer opportunities, check out www.volunteermd.org.
We are also offering the Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud platform to businesses and companies at no cost through September 30, 2020. This proven tool makes it easy for employees to volunteer, advocate, and donate to the causes they care about. For details, contact Cecilia.Helmstetter@uwcm.org.
What demographic data is being tracked through 211?
We try not to overburden our callers with too many questions, but we do capture age, race/ethnicity, ZIP code, veteran status, and gender. We capture income information when assisting with eligibility requirements for health and human services and other programs.
With the significant uptick in 211 calls, what is the current wait time?
Wait time depends on the timing of the calls, but people can hold their place in line and receive a call back. Time spent on calls has increased because people are calling with multifaceted, complex issues, and our Call Specialists are having to find solutions for problems and issues that we have not encountered before.
Are more volunteers needed to answer calls?
When we put out the call for 211 volunteers to assist with the influx of COVID-19-related calls, more than 100 people signed up in one day! We’ve currently trained and onboarded more than 80 volunteers to help our call staff. We’re holding steady for now!
How can we help the 211 Call Specialists?
The best way to help the 211 team is with a donation to our COVID-19 Community Fund. This fund enabled us to ramp up early on in the crisis to manage the burgeoning call volume by recruiting, training, and outfitting volunteers with what they needed to help answer calls, and will help us continue to support the efforts and well-being our incredibly dedicated and hardworking 211 team.
What is UWCM doing to support the well-being and mental health of your 211 staff?
United Way recognizes that it’s essential to support staff and volunteers during this time so that they can most effectively help callers. The trauma content is dense, and United Way has dedicated resources, time, and space to assist the team.
For years, United Way has contracted with a licensed, clinical social worker to provide supervision to our staff who are licensed Master’s-level social workers. When it became clear that the 211 team needed additional support due to the stress of handling COVID-19-related calls day after day, we encouraged all 211 staff, regardless of academic degree, to schedule time to talk with a social worker from this service. The 211 staff is also afforded time away from the phones to join a virtual meeting with colleagues to talk about their concerns and the challenges they face.
Many people experiencing food insecurity rely on food stamps to purchase groceries. Is United Way aware of any programs that enable families or individuals to pay using food stamps or get grocery delivery in Maryland?
State regulations will be waived so that people can use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) benefits to purchase food online. ShopRite and Amazon have waived delivery fees for food for SNAP recipients. Few stores are accepting EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer), payments, but we are aware of some curbside shopping outlets that do accept them, including ShopRite and Walmart.
Has the Howard County COVID-19 fund collaborative applied an equity lens to the funding request process?
In both of the funding collaboratives, an equity lens is applied. United Way has relaxed some requirements to accommodate smaller organizations, and we’re happy to provide any technical assistance, answer questions, or address any concerns.
The HoCoRespond collaborative fund will assist nonprofits that equitably provide essential services to the individuals and families most at risk of severe hardship due to
the COVID-19 pandemic. These populations include: lower-income families affected by COVID-19 related layoffs; lower-income seniors and the disabled; healthcare and gig economy workers and their families; residents without health insurance and/or access to sick days; residents with limited English proficiency; residents who lack affordable childcare or sick child care; communities of color, etc.
The COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore’s website and application process have been designed with equity as a core principle so that this process is easily shared with and accessible to the nonprofit ecosystems we seek to reach. The application is structured to collect necessary information about organizational attributes as well as populations and geographies served that will allow participating funders to apply their organizational equity lens in their respective decision-making processes.
Is the “thank you” video from the food pantry staff you shared available online and for sharing?
Yes! You can find the video here.