NJ 211 Newsletter - Fall 2022
The Provident Bank Foundation
NJ 211 is thrilled to receive a Major Grant from The Provident Bank Foundation. The $15,000 grant will help support our 211 service and operations while we continue to expand our organizational capacity. NJ 211 will use the funds to recruit and hire additional community resource specialists, increase coverage during peak hours, and transition more employees to remote status.
The grant will help ensure that NJ 211 has the staff needed to continue to make critical connections between individuals and families seeking health or human services and the community referrals best able to meet their needs. We're thankful for the support and additional funding that ultimately allows us to better serve New Jersey residents.
Breaking Down Transportation Barriers One Ride at a Time
NJ 211 continues to provide rides in partnership with United Way Worldwide and Lyft. Since January 2021, NJ 211 has coordinated over 3,000 rides through the Ride United Transportation Access Program. Ride United can be used for medical reasons, employment purposes, food access, education matters, and more. It is accessible to everyone, even those with limited mobility who must travel with a collapsible wheelchair, a walker, or a personal aide. Ride recipient Valerie L. was so thankful for the assistance that she became emotional when explaining, “My paperwork got lost in the mail, and I didn’t receive my SNAP benefits. I called 211 and was able to schedule a ride to resubmit them in person. NJ 211 stepped up and understood when no one else did.” Melissa Acree, NJ 211's executive director, explained, "Transportation is a real issue for many individuals who contact us for assistance. Many people do not realize that those who lack transportation face additional barriers. We are happy to be able to fill the gap." Transportation barriers can lead to missed doctor appointments, an insufficient food supply, delayed access to medication, job loss, or an interruption in social service benefits, similar to Valerie's abovementioned experience.
Visit NJ 211's Transportation Options in NJ page to learn more about Ride United and other transportation options in NJ.
Income Limit Changes Make Utility Programs More Accessible
NJ 211 receives thousands of calls each year from residents struggling to pay utility bills so they can stay warm. Over the last two years, income limits for state programs have been raised, making programs accessible to more New Jersey residents who are still trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The result? A surge in applicants. "Although the 2022 season officially opened on October 1st, in September, we saw over a 65% increase in utility assistance contacts when compared to 2021," stated Kevin Donahue, chief operating officer. As the state's Utility Assistance Hotline, staff have been carefully trained on utility assistance programs. Community resource specialists can connect callers with the most appropriate resource, reduce confusion by explaining the different programs, provide applications, and check the status of LIHEAP/USF applications that have been submitted.
Mr. Sterling contacted NJ 211 for assistance locating the correct application. He said, "I was having trouble finding the application and wanted to make sure that I was filling out the right one. I was impressed by Khawla, the community resource specialist that helped me. She was patient and kind and took the extra time to ensure that I understood the application instructions and which documents were needed. We need more people like Khawla!"
Want to learn about the various programs and check if you qualify? Visit NJ 211's Utility Assistance Programs page. There you will find applications, eligibility, as well as details about DCAid, New Jersey's utility and housing screening tool.
Agencies Connect Through 211’s Facebook Group
Over the last few years, NJ 211 has made great strides in connecting with agencies across the state; now, they are focusing on database quality. “We know agencies are just as busy assisting those in need as we are,” said Dana Catapano, marketing and communications manager and group facilitator. “Most agencies are on social media, so we met them there. It has been helpful to have a place for them to quickly inform us of minor changes to their hours, a pop-up food pantry, a discontinued program, or a new location.” The group has also evolved into a hub for communication between local agencies; many use the group as a platform to share event flyers and promote their programs. As a member of the group, agency professionals can learn how to add and update their 211 listing, receive personal service from resource database staff, network, share their events and agency news throughout the state, and improve their understanding of the 211 system and how the clients they serve can utilize it.
NJ Center for Nonprofits Conference
Don’t miss the premier conference for New Jersey nonprofits and allies, packed with the great insights, tools, and super-charged networking you’ve come to expect, December 7, 8am -4pm at the Palace at Somerset Park! Register now- bit.ly/3EXTLI5