Americans Still waiting for Congress to Pass Federal Legislation on 2-1-1
Ten years ago this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined a scarce resource, 2-1-1-a remaining 3-digit abbreviated dialing code-should be used for access to community information and referral. Just as 9-1-1 connects people to emergency services, 2-1-1 connects people to important human services.
In the 10 years since the FCC's decision, 2-1-1 has been enabled-at least in part-in 46 states. Last year, 2-1-1 centers answered over 16 million calls, connecting people with job options, food, housing, education, counseling and much more. Local and state agencies rely on 2-1-1 as the "go-to" number for connecting victims, volunteers and donors with information that speeds recovery post disaster.
Over 300 members of Congress agree that 2-1-1 should be available for all Americans. A broadly bi-partisan group of 246 Representatives and 61 Senators have co-sponsored the Calling for 2-1-1 Act (H.R.211/S.211), a bill that would authorize a modest matching grant program to support 2-1-1. The overwhelming majority of Congress understands that 2-1-1 needs to be available to all people everywhere 24 hours a day so that people can get the help they need in a personal crisis or natural disaster.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the 2010 hurricane season could be "one of the most active on record." If forecasters are right, 2-1-1 Centers will be besieged with calls as they were during prior hurricanes, floods and wildfires. Yet, many Americans still do not have access to 2-1-1. How will they find disaster recovery information? How will others learn how to volunteer or help? The overwhelming volume of calls to 2-1-1, due to the economic recession, has already pushed 2-1-1 to the edge of its call-handling capacity. Americans deserve to have 2-1-1 enabled and ready-in advance of the next big disaster.
On this 10-year anniversary of the FCC Order to designate 2-1-1, local community leaders are calling on Congress to enact the Calling For 2-1-1 Act before the August recess and before any new major disasters hit the U.S. 2-1-1 has proven itself as a cost-effective answer to help residents navigate the complex and ever-changing maze of human services-during personal crises and natural disasters.
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