Tax Filling Season Is Here!

Vermont 2-1-1

Vermont 2-1-1 Monthly Contact Statistics

A message from the Director, MaryEllen Mendl

Another very busy December has come to a close with contact specialists responding to 5,795 calls.This one month total is only 100 calls shy of the total call volume for the entire third quarter of 2017 and is a twenty-five percent increase in calls over the month of November. The onset of winter traditionally begins a busier time of year for the 2-1-1 Contact Center, and this trend is reflected, once again, in this month’s report. The types of requests for information and referral represent the heightened day-to-day struggles that some Vermont families annually face during the cold weather season. The annual upward trend of requests for shelter from the cold and financial assistance with utility costs were in full swing as we closed out 2017.

Year-end totals show that Information and Referral Specialists provided direct personal responses to 28,948 calls in 2017. During those same twelve months, Vermont 2-1-1 received close to 34,351 visitors to our website. In addition, 9,895 calls were received from Vermonters inquiring specifically about the State’s Emergency Housing Adverse Weather Conditions (formerly known as the Cold Weather Exception), periods when temperatures drop and the General Assistance Emergency Housing rules are relaxed in order to keep our most vulnerable warm and dry on the coldest Vermont winter nights.

This winter, there were nine cold weather shelters in place to help respond to the increased need and two extreme cold weather emergency shelters opened for the first time over the last weekend in 2017, providing  additional shelter space in Rutland and Burlington where motel vacancies were scarce and requests for motel vouchers continued to rise due to sub-zero temperatures. The collaborative efforts of state and non-profit organizations in response to winter housing emergencies exemplify successful system coordination, and our collective efforts on many fronts will continue to improve the health and well-being of every member of our Vermont communities. Vermont 2-1-1 Information and Referral Specialists made more referrals to housing/shelter related resources in 2017 than in any other year.

Referrals to public assistance programs peaked in December. The majority of the referrals were to General Relief, an income maintenance program administered and funded by the State of Vermont that provides basic financial assistance for individuals and families to meet their emergency basic needs.

In 2018, Vermont 2-1-1 will continue to fulfill its founding mission of connecting all people in Vermont to the agencies, organizations, services, and resources that provide the help they need. Our Information and Referral Specialists, trained to respond with compassion, are answering calls 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. As always, the Vermont 2-1-1 database is available at Look for a new and improved way to search for resources coming in 2018!

Read Vermont 2-1-1’s monthly contact volume report here.

Supporting Baby’s Brain Development

Did you know when a baby cries or babbles and the adult caring for them consistently responds with eye contact, words, appropriate facial expression and touch, they are helping to build the baby’s brain? It’s called serve and return, and these everyday back-and-forth interactions are essential experiences that affect a baby’s development.

Infants and young children reach out for social interaction by “serving” an attempt at attention, (like babbling). When caregivers “return” consistently in a direct and meaningful way (like eye contact and smiling), they provide an environment for the baby’s healthy emotional, social and cognitive development. These interactions help to build what is called “brain architecture”; they help to create neural connections in the brain.  These interactions become more complex as the child grows and they begin to use serve and return with adults to develop language and literacy skills.

On the other hand, if a caregiver’s responses are unreliable, inappropriate or absent, this disrupts the brain’s development and how the child processes information.  The negative effects can include an increased risk for emotional, behavioral and cognitive disorders. It can also alter the brain’s stress response system, creating greater risk of developing anxiety, depression and other chronic health problems. A breakdown in serve and return interaction is often due to the caregiver experiencing significant stresses, such as financial problems, chronic health and/or mental health issues and a lack of supportive social connections.

Genes and experiences play a part in the developing brain, and input from a child’s senses is the foundation the brain depends on. These serve and return interactions set the stage by providing positive stimulation and social interaction and reduce stress when the baby knows their need will be met. Building these neural pathways affects different areas of growth in the brain at a time when a child’s brain is experiencing the biggest amount of development. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second in the first few years of a child’s life.

Help Me Grow VT Child Development Specialists can help you learn ways to support your child’s development and find community resources to support your family in stressful times. Visit our website or contact a Child Development Specialist by dialing 2-1-1 ext. 6 or by texting HMGVT to 898211.

Emergency Housing in Vermont

Through a partnership with the State of Vermont’s Economic Services Division, Vermont 2-1-1 administers the After Hours Emergency Housing Program beginning at 4:30pm weekdays, throughout weekends and on state/federal holidays. Housing in Vermont has reached a critical need.

Vermont 2-1-1 Information and Referral (I&R) Specialists responded to 877 calls regarding housing needs. I&R specialists provide needs assessment, problem-solving support, and information and referrals to a wide range of services to each caller. Review Vermont 2-1-1’s Emergency Housing Report for December here.

Vermont 2-1-1 Web Statistics

In addition to the contact statistics, the following data is from the 2-1-1 website and shows how the public used the database search engine during the month of December:

Top Services: Holiday Gifts/Toys (569 searches); Christmas Programs (409 searches); Homeless Motel Vouchers (380 searches); Community Meals (153 searches); Clothing Donation Programs (148 searches)

Top Agencies: United Way of Northwest Vermont; Salvation Army (Rutland); Salvation (Burlington); Chances for Christmas; Vermont Department for Children and Families – Economic Services Division

Top Search by City: Burlington; Hancock; Brattleboro; New Haven; East Fairfield

Total Site Visits: 5126

Unique (First-Time) Visitors: 2069

Tax Filling Season Is Here!

Vermont 2-1-1 partners with our local United Ways, many Community Action Agencies, and private non-profits to help connect Vermonters to free tax preparation across the state. Individuals must meet income eligibility guidelines to access the services offered by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which serves thousands of Vermonters annually, but there are resources for everyone in the 2-1-1 database.

Whether you need information about Vermont Renters Rebate, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Federal IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers in VT, or where to find online tax preparation programs, simply dial 2-1-1, text your zip code to 898211, or search our database using the following terms:

Winter Warm Up Concerns

From Department of Public Safety – Division of Fire Safety

The National Weather has forecast a considerable warm-up through the first part of this weekend.

Recent extreme cold temperatures with snow accumulation has contributed to ice and snow buildup on roofs. With warmer temperatures and rain in the forecast- falling ice and heavy snow loads on roofs may present a hazard.

Please follow the safety tips below:

1. Keep all chimneys and fuel fired appliance vents clear to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the building. Some vents, such as gas, oil, and pellet stove vents, may vent directly out of the building through a wall and are susceptible to being blocked by excessive snow buildup on the outside of the building.

2. Keep all exits clear of snow, so that occupants can escape quickly if a fire, or other emergency should occur. Keep in mind windows should be cleared to allow a secondary means of escape in case the primary means of escape is blocked by fire. Keeping exits clear also allows emergency workers quick and easy access to your building.

3. Be alert when approaching buildings for overhanging ice and snow, with the warming weather and forecast of rain, the ice and snow could fall from the roofs at any time.

4. Monitor your roof drainage systems for blockage to ensure that your roofs are displacing the water as designed. Clear any ice, snow or debris as needed to assist with proper drainage.

5. Please check on your neighbors and assist them when you can, especially our most vulnerable, the elderly and those with restricted mobility.

6. Ensure your home is equipped with working smoke and CO alarms.

From Vermont 2-1-1’s New Staff Member, Stacy!

Vermont has always been my home. I earned a degree in Education, Human Services, and Professional Studies all at Vermont State Colleges. I have worked for the State of Vermont for the past 4 years, and before that I ran an after school program at Meeting Waters YMCA for 7. I love all that my tiny state has to offer. I enjoy hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling, dirt biking, camping, and all of the wonderful outdoor activities I can do in the area. I also am a powerlifter, dancer, and traveler, and I play volleyball year-round. I currently serve on the Meeting Waters YMCA Board of Directors, and I also am the Community College of Vermont Representative on the Vermont State Colleges Alumni Council. I am happy that I am able to still serve in a Human Services position, and I am excited about my new venture as Outreach Specialist with Vermont 2-1-1!



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