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If you're in need of financial, housing or other assistance, you may not know where to start your search for help. The good news: You can call 211 and speak to a community resource specialist who can connect you to a variety of resources in your community.
What Is 211?
211 is a free hotline you can call to get information on health and human services programs in your area. The service is run by the United Way and is staffed 24/7. Users can get in touch by phone, web chat or text message.
When you call 211, you are directly connected with trained community resource specialists who will take your information and connect you with an agency or organization that specializes in the area of need. 211 is available in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. You can call 211 or visit 211.org to find out if it provides resources in your community.
What Kind of Financial Services Can 211 Help With?
You can use 211 to get in touch with a wide variety of financial and personal services. Some may help directly with finances, while others can provide tools to help you become more financially stable over time. For example, getting rent assistance through a 211 referral could help keep you in your home, while attending a low-cost dental clinic for cleanings now could prevent the need for costly dental work later.
Some of the referrals 211 can offer include:
- Health services, including medical clinics, dental clinics, mental health and substance abuse resources, and vaccination clinics
- Supplemental food programs
- Legal services
- Housing services
- Domestic violence resources
- Job training
- Re-entry services
- Emergency and disaster resources
Even if your situation feels complex, 211 specialists can connect you with a variety of resources that will give you the best shot of remedying your financial and other challenges.
Other Resources That Can Offer Financial Help
Besides contacting 211, there are many other resources to get financial help or to complement the resources provided by 211. Some may be provided by private organizations, while others are funded by the federal government. Options may include:
- Financial benefits from your employer: By taking advantage of financial benefits from your employer, you may free up money elsewhere in your budget. Your employer may provide student loan assistance, mental health assistance, a child care subsidy and more.
- Credit counseling: Credit counseling is generally free or low-cost and involves having a professional go over your financial challenges and goals and set up a plan to tackle financial or debt issues you may be experiencing.
- Utility company budget assistance: If you're having trouble paying your monthly utilities—especially with seasonal fluctuations due to heating or air conditioning use—you may be able to set up budget billing with your utility company. The company averages out your bills over the past year or two and comes up with a set amount you can pay each month to help make your bills more predictable and still cover your costs.
- Federal housing assistance: Whether you rent or are looking to buy, you may be able to get housing assistance from government programs like:
- Section 8 housing: For families with an income below 50% of the local median income, the Housing Choice Voucher program provides assistance paying rent via housing vouchers.
- FHA loans: If your credit needs some work but you need to buy a house sooner than later, Federal Housing Administration loans can help you get qualified to buy. These have lower down payment requirements but tend to have higher interest rates.
- Medical billing advocates: Large medical bills can be confusing and overwhelming. A professional medical billing advocate can help spot errors in your bill, negotiate discounts and develop an affordable payment plan for your medical bills.
- Federal nutritional assistance: Groceries can be very expensive, but there are multiple government programs that can help you get the nutrition your family needs, including:
- WIC: The Women's, Infants and Children food assistance program is a federal program that provides food assistance.
- SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program sends money to eligible families to buy food with a debit card designed for the program.
- National School Lunch Program: While this program only applies if you've got kids in school, it can be a way to ensure they get good nutrition during the school day and take the pressure off your budget. Some school districts also offer free breakfasts and lunches to qualifying kids during the summer and school breaks, so be sure to check if this is available in your area.
Building good credit can help you save money when you need to take out a loan, rent an apartment or sign up for utility services. If you don't have a credit history or want to get yours in better shape, Experian can help.
- Experian Go™: If you don't have a credit history, Experian Go can help you create a credit report immediately and begin building your credit.
- Experian Boost®ø: Experian Boost is a feature that helps give you credit for the bills you already pay on time, like utilities, streaming services and your cellphone service.
Ask for Help
If you are struggling financially, it's important to ask for help sooner than later. Calling 211 can be an important step to accessing services that may help you preserve any savings you may have, protect your family and limit the damage (and costs) that can come with missing bill payments. Reach out to any lenders or other service providers as soon as you know you may be late on a payment, as they may be able to help arrange an alternative payment plan while you work to get back on your feet.