NJ 211 Newsletter - Summer 2021
Hot weather can be as dangerous as the frigid cold if you are among the most vulnerable in our state. As a partner in the state’s emergency plan, NJ 211 knows this all too well. “When extreme weather conditions reach our borders,” executive director Melissa Acree explains, “our staff goes into high gear just as the NJ Office of Emergency Management does, along with all their county affiliates and partners.”
“I’m just so hot,” one of our callers said when she reached out to us to see if there was anywhere that she could go to get relief towards the end of June when our first official heat wave of the season took hold. By official emergency standards, for conditions to be termed a heat wave you need three consecutive days above 90 degrees. That is just what we got as the month drew to a close.
Fortunately, we were able to assist. Staff had been busy communicating with every county office of emergency management since early that morning and our list of cooling centers was growing quickly. By the end of the day over 200 locations were listed on our site. The longer NJ 211 serves in this capacity, the more familiar our state and county partners become with our processes and procedures. “It is wonderful to see how this relationship has grown,” says Ms. Acree. In 2007 (when we first started posting cooling and warming center locations) NJ 211 used to search the internet and county sites to look for this information. Now, we know just who to contact in every county and often county officials reach out to us when extreme weather is headed our way to make sure that we will know how to direct people in need of relief. During this most recent heat wave over 2,000 connections to help were made. We know it’s only the beginning of the summer season, but it’s a good start.
Affordable housing has always been among the top needs expressed by callers to NJ 211, but for those who lost their income during the pandemic the struggle to pay rent, keep the lights on and feed one’s family became increasingly difficult. For many, it now feels insurmountable. Landlords who are counting on timely rental payments to pay the mortgages on these homes are struggling too.
State and local government is striving to offer sustainable options. Housing assistance programs specifically designed for people in this situation may help. Utility assistance programs may as well. While the moratorium on utility shutoffs ended on July 1, there is a grace period that is in place until the end of this year, which is intended to give customers time to enroll in payment assistance programs. The DCAid screening portal is a tool that will enable you to see what housing and utility assistance programs may be available to you. NJHelps is another screening tool that focuses on programs designed to assist with food, healthcare, childcare and employment needs.
Housing Help NJ is a recently opened program that is administered through the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. It was developed to connect New Jersey renters, landlords, and homeowners with information available from multiple sources to assist in preventing eviction. If you would like to speak with someone about foreclosure or eviction, you may also call 888.691.3002. Housing Help NJ does not provide direct financial assistance.
Every day our staff is speaking with people who are terribly stressed about the situation they are facing. “People keep saying, ‘You are not alone’ but I do feel very alone right now,” one caller expressed. If you are feeling this way, reach out for help. Call 211 and let us connect you with housing resources, utility assistance programs, mental health services, food resources and more. That’s what we are here for.
Get Vaccinated... Because Vaccines Work
Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for those who are 12 years of age and older, you may be wondering if getting your child vaccinated is the right decision. Since becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, more than 600,000 children ages 12 to 15 have already received the shot; but is it right for you and your family?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend it because evidence shows that getting vaccinated can help protect your child from:
- Getting COVID-19
- Getting seriously ill if they do get the virus
- Spreading COVID-19 to others
And, as more people become protected against the virus, it also reduces the chances of the virus mutating and becoming more dangerous.
Of course, parents must weigh the risk versus benefit of the vaccine but should also remember that not vaccinating your child may come with its own set of risks. As children return to school and in-person activities, there is an increased risk of infection from interaction with others. And we have seen a large impact on the mental health of children due to COVID-19: After more than a year of quarantine, they want to hang out with their friends; they want to see their grandparents; and they want to do the basic things that kids do, like play sports without a mask on.
Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic and Turn the Page on COVID-19.
If you are a parent with children 12 to 15 years old and you’re unsure about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, you may want to reach out to your child’s pediatrician, pharmacist, or another trusted health professional to discuss your concerns. You can find vaccination appointments near you at VaccineFinder.org. (Note: While clinical trials involving younger children are in progress, children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.)
Get a COVID-19 vaccine for your child as soon as you can:
Free Transportation Available Through Ride United
NJ 211 is participating in a special initiative that is funded by United Way Worldwide who has partnered with Lyft to provide free or discounted rides to vaccination sites throughout the state. The program is called Ride United. It is accessible to everyone, even those with limited mobility who must travel with a collapsible wheelchair, a walker, or a personal aide. Since the launch of this program in May of this year, NJ 211 has provided 510 rides to New Jerseyans who needed the transportation to get to local vaccination sites.
Ride United can also be used for medical reasons, employment purposes, food access, education matters, and more. In fact, 423 rides were provided for these other needs. In June 2021, the majority of the rides offered were to and from job interviews and new employment sites! To find out more about Ride United and other transportation options in NJ, click here.