Callers are dialing 211 in droves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are reaching out for the very first time.

Data from United Way Centraide Canada shows many Canadians are having trouble paying bills, getting enough food to eat, and taking care of their mental health

Why It Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequities around food access, mental health services, and income support. United Way Centraide Canada’s findings suggest the virus is also impoverishing Canadians who were previously secure. Non-profits and government programming will need to be ready for an increase in demand.

Many Canadians who’ve never had problems paying bills or accessing food before the COVID-19 pandemic are calling 211 in search of help, according to new data released by United Way Centraide Canada (UWCC) on Thursday. 

Widespread infections, job losses, and the stress of public health regulations, not to mention the 21,000 Canadians who’ve died of the virus so far, are taking their toll on Canadians’ mental health and their ability to access food and other essentials. At 211, a helpline that connects callers with social and government services, call volumes between March and December of 2020 were 30 percent higher than the previous year. And many of those callers are new. 

“211 Navigators — the people who answer the calls — say since the pandemic began, they have received a high volume of callers who have never had to reach out for support before,”

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