Find Help When State Employees Need It Most

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal-Register on Sunday, July 12, 2015.

John KelkerFrom time-to-time events occur which are beyond our individual control. Sometimes these events directly influence our families and sometimes they affect an entire community. Unfortunately, our community is facing one such event; an event which could affect thousands of local families and impact our entire community: Illinois’ Budget Crisis.

Simply stated, there is no sector which affects our local economy more than state government. As the state capital, thousands of local families now face uncertainty over their next paycheck and social service providers are facing delayed payments and uncertainty about future funding. For this reason, the current budget impasse affects our community more than other areas of the state and each of us needs to encourage our elected officials to work together for the common good.

As an organization committed to strengthening Sangamon and Menard Counties, we understand the challenges facing families in crisis. Although we hope the state’s budget stalemate is quickly resolved, we need to assure that local families know how to access services during this period.

Although several state offices are working diligently to provide potential assistance to state employees, the need for community services is inevitable. Many of these families are living paycheck-to-paycheck and a disruption of income could mean the need for mortgage, rent and utility assistance or other short-term services. United Way 2-1-1 is there to help.

For those not familiar with this service, 2-1-1 is the community-wide information and referral service for those living in Sangamon and Menard County. The easy to remember, toll-free number connects individuals with the community’s network of health and human services.

For individuals, it means that a single phone call, answered 24 hours a day, can save hours of searching for the services they are seeking. Moreover, 2-1-1 reduces the staff time our local agencies spend on routine referral assistance, and data collected by 2-1-1 helps United Way to identify the greatest immediate needs in our community.

United Way 2-1-1 was established for times of crisis as well as for everyday needs. Our 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7 to help individuals locate health and human services in our area – from assistance with mortgage, rent and utility assistance to counseling, child care assistance, job training, healthcare resources and much more.

Calls to 2-1-1 are confidential and operators work with callers to quickly assess the caller’s needs and refer them to the help they seek.

Simply dial 2-1-1 or access the service by dialing 1-888-865-9903.

In addition to State of Illinois employees, the current budget stalemate has created widespread uncertainty among local social service providers. Although the state will continue payments to certain classifications of health and human service programs, other programs could experience delays in payments. As a result, local services could be affected. For families relying on these services, 2-1-1 will help identify alternatives.

At United Way, we believe we not only have an obligation to support the multiple needs of our community, but have an obligation to better connect members of our community with the services they need. Although we have faith that our elected officials will find a way to work together to end the budget impasse, we ask for your help in making sure members of our community know where to turn for help if these issues are not quickly resolved.

John Kelker is the President at United Way of Central Illinois. Learn more about 2-1-1 services at Look for United Way Columns weekly in Our Towns.