United Way, agencies getting surge of calls for financial help

The United Way of Greater Houston and other agencies are receiving a surge in calls from families needing help.  

Since Texas Health and Human Resources referred people to call the United Way's 211 hotline four days ago, the United Way says it received more than 3,300 calls in just the first day.  

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They say approximately 40% of the calls are about the COVID-19 virus, but 60% is about basic needs:  families needing food, unemployment insurance, money to pay utility bills, and access to community clinics.

The United Way of Greater Houston says it has trained staff answering calls around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

They can not only help callers find testing and clinics for those who think they might have the virus, but they are also helping people find resources to pay their utility bills, rent, and mortgages, and to locate food pantries, senior services, and unemployment help. 

Family Houston is also helping families find food assistance, through the Houston Food Bank and school programs, as well as public benefits and unemployment assistance.  

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"They're extremely stressed and worried because again the length of time the pandemic will last is really unknown.  So we're helping them navigate for resources as far as looking at their income and what ways they can reduce their expenses," said Family Houston financial coach Brenda Velasco.

Family Houston is also helping people access healthcare and providing mental health services. 

Said Velasco, "There's a lot of panic and people at home they might be stressed because they don't know when this is going to end."

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The Gulf Coast Community Services Association can also provide people with short term help on bills and expenses like rent, mortgage, prescriptions, and transportation. 

The City of Houston has announced it will not disconnect water service through April to customers who are behind on payments. 

If you need help, you can simply dial 211 to reach the United Way Helpline.  It is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in many languages. 

You can also find resources at https://familyhouston.org.  Or you can Family Houston at (713) 861-4849 and family@familyhouston.org.

Learn more about emergency services offered through the Gulf Coast Community Services website here:  
Or call them at 713-393-4700.