Happy 2022 from Washington 211. This year our state and its citizens will likely face as many challenges as they did in 2021, and there’s every reason to believe that once again Washington 211 will be a part of overcoming those hurdles.
COVID Calls Still Running High
While not as high as during the peak of the pandemic, COVID calls handled by the WA 211 system through the Department of Health hotline are still running strong with 24,000 COVID-related calls in the first month of 2022. Last year, we handled over 340,000 COVID-related calls. Most common requests and questions have to do with vaccination appointments.
Legislature Convenes Second Virtual Session
The Washington State Legislature is in the thick of holding hearings as part of its 60-day legislative session. Last year, the Legislature and Governor authorized our request for $3 million for the two-year budget period ending June 30, 2023. So this year, our focus is on system improvements such as training support, agency outreach, and expanding equity and diversity policies and practices. But we are monitoring legislation that will create new tools and amend existing ones designed to address issues affecting those who call 211. For instance, the Legislature continues its emphasis on housing affordability and homelessness as well as looking for ways to broaden access to health care and other social services.
On February 11 Help Spread the Word About Washington 211
Designated National 2-1-1 Day, February 11, is a day to inform people across the nation about non-emergency health and human services information and referrals available by contacting 2-1-1. Washington 211 has updated a one-page information sheet about the work we’ve done over the last 12 months. Please use this day to learn more about the Washington 211 network and its impact and then share your knowledge with other community members. Our state’s 2-1-1 Counts website provides insightful information about community needs down to the zip code and school district level.
Another Example of the Value of WA 211 Listening
There are times when our specialists cannot find an appropriate referral or service for a client, even when the client is in great need. These can be hard calls for our team to handle since we strive to help everyone. But recently, Greater Columbia 211 handled a call and was reminded how important just listening can be. An unemployed 42-year-old man called about how to get medical payment assistance but we couldn’t find any benefit that he qualified for. In the course of the call, he described his physical, household and psychological challenges to retaining employment. At the end of the call, the specialist apologized for not being able to help and he responded by saying “don’t worry about it; the most valuable thing out of this whole conversation was you listening to me, your attentiveness, and your words. Even if you would have given me resources to help me, you listening to me doesn’t have a price.”
Tax Season Is Upon Us
While COVID-related calls continue to dominate our call volumes, it is tax season. The Internal Revenue Service has opened for this year the IRS Free File, available only through IRS.gov. This web service provides people an early opportunity to file their taxes and claim the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, the enhanced Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other important credits. Taxpayers can use Free File to claim the remaining amount of their Child Tax Credit and claim any advance payments of the Child Tax Credit they did not receive in 2021. Even those who don’t qualify for these credits, can use the site’s free fillable forms.