PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — United Way’s 211 call center has been inundated with questions and concerns from Rhode Islanders regarding the coronavirus pandemic, according to CEO Cortney Nicolato.
“We were mesmerized by the number of calls we received,” Nicolato said during an interview Wednesday on 12 News Now at 4. (Watch the full interview in the video above.)
Nicolato said the call volume increased roughly 40% from previous years, “and they were already taking the most calls per capita in the country.”
“Rhode Islanders were calling us for everything from concerns, questions, locations for testing,” she said, adding that nowadays, people are asking more so about the vaccine.
Since the start of the pandemic, Nicolato said they’ve received more than 90,000 COVID-related questions.
“What we do at the United Way is peel that back,” she said. “We always know that when Rhode Islanders are calling us because of a crisis or a concern, there are generally additional issues.”
The second-most common concern, she added, is housing, since many people have lost their jobs and can’t afford their monthly rent or mortgage payments.
“Far too many Rhode Islanders are concerned, and rightfully so, about losing their housing,” she said. “That is a crisis here in the state and one of the largest call volumes that we take at 211.”
Throughout the pandemic, Nicolato said United Way has partnered with several organizations to help Rhode Islanders.
She said United Way has assisted Rhode Islanders in many ways, from delivering groceries to those in quarantine or isolation to offering free legal support to those facing eviction.
United Way, according to Nicolato, relies on donations to fund their services. She said throughout the pandemic, donations have gone up.
“We were blown away by the generosity of the Rhode Island community,” Nicolato said. “211 is not a fully-funded program, it is funded through the generosity of Rhode Islanders as well as some state and federal funding.”
“We are putting those dollars not only into critical services like 211, but into building racial equity and providing opportunities for all Rhode Islanders,” she added.