A message from the Director, MaryEllen Mendl
High call volume totals in January have made for a busy start to the year at the 2-1-1 call center! Contact specialists responded to over 3,500 calls which is a return to the much more typical winter call volume. The milder start to the winter, coupled with the lower heating fuel costs, contributed to minimal increases in Housing and Utility assistance calls during the final months of 2015. However, January’s data, with calls related to Housing/Shelter doubling over December’s total, shows that the stress that winter months typically place on many Vermont households was simply delayed. In January the number of after-hours emergency housing calls climbed to 677 requests for emergency shelter.
Vermont 2-1-1continues to provide after-hours provisional housing for the Department of Children and Families and historically, the Agency of Human Services’ Cold Weather Exception Policy has allowed individuals who would not normally meet the eligibility criteria to be housed on the coldest winter nights. The number of nights during which temperatures have been cold enough to meet the Cold Weather Exception criteria has been significantly less thus far this winter than for 2014-15.
Once again, the month of January began 2-1-1’s “tax season”! Historically, the three and a half month tax filing season has been responsible for a spike in call volume. All Vermonters can call 2-1-1 for accurate information about local the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program closest to them or for information about free, online e-filing preparation assistance. Taxpayers who live or work in Windham, Windsor and Chittenden Counties, can dial 2-1-1 to be directly transferred to a tax scheduler to make their appointments. Vermont 2-1-1 Call Specialists can also provide information about income eligibility guidelines and screening.
VITA, the annual program for which IRS certified volunteers provide free tax filing help to low-to-moderate income tax payers, elderly taxpayers, and military personnel and their families, is central to increasing the number of families who are financially stable by saving them the cost of tax preparation and helping them claim all tax credits for which they are eligible. It is anticipated that a further increase in call volume and tax related calls will occur in February, as each year more and more Vermonters realize that a call to 2-1-1 provides them with the information they need to access these important services.
Read Vermont 2-1-1’s monthly call volume report here.