What is United Way 211?


United Way 211 is a free and confidential information and referral line. Available 24/7, United Way 211 is an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers with free non-emergency information and referrals for community services in Ogle and Winnebago counties. United Way 211, in partnership with United Way Illinois and PATH, Inc., enable people to get help or give help.




What is the 2-1-1 Illinois’s relationship with United Way?


United Ways throughout Illinois are the leadership and funders of 2-1-1. United Ways are a primary supporter of 2-1-1 services because they see 2-1-1 as a simple, effective, efficient and cost effective way for people to find and give help. It will help people improve their own lives, and in the end, strengthen our communities. While 2-1-1 Illinois has United Way representatives on the board for 2-1-1 Illinois, there are also providers, community leaders, and state government with voting power. 2-1-1 Illinois is an independent not-for-profit organization.




What will a call to 2-1-1 cost me?


211 Illinois, a non-profit agency with representation from state government, non-profit agencies, and funders, is working to ensure that all calls to 2-1-1 will be free. This is the case for landline phones where 2-1-1 service is available. Since most cellular plans charge customers based on usage, standard rates may apply for calls to 2-1-1 using a wireless phone.




Is 2-1-1 available in my area?


Most telephone companies have completed “translation” work. It depends upon the geographic location from which the call is made and the telephone provider used to make the call.


2-1-1 service evolves daily; check back for updates. The experience from other 2-1-1 Centers around the country demonstrates that it will take many years to ensure 2-1-1 access for all citizens from all telephones.


Generally, callers from areas, or with providers, not yet programmed for 2-1-1 hear either a “fast busy” or a “not in service” recording. If you hear either of these and are calling from within Ogle and Winnebago counties, report the issue to United Way 211 by calling 800.570.7284 and tell the trained 2-1-1 operator that you could not get through. Do NOT call your local telecommunications provider.




How does 2-1-1 work?


The 3-digits of “2-1-1” are “translated” by each telephone company and the United Way 211 network identifies the area code and prefix of the originating call and routes it to the appropriate 2-1-1 Center.   Locally, a 2-1-1 call is answered by a trained I&R Specialist in Bloomington, Ill.




Will I have to punch a lot of numbers or get lost in a phone tree?


No. You may be asked to “press 0” to continue but a live operator will take your call.  There is currently no voice mail trees because 2-1-1 centers value easy access to services.




Is 2-1-1 available 24 hours a day?


Yes, and on weekends and holidays. 




Can I use my cell phone to call 2-1-1?


Most wireless carriers have completed the work needed for 2-1-1 access (for example, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint); arrangements are on going with all other cellular providers.


Because most cellular plans charge customers based on usage, the 2-1-1 caller on a cell phone will be charged normal minutes, fees and taxes for usage.




Can I call 2-1-1 from a pay telephone?


Not at this time.




Why won’t 2-1-1 work from my office?


Generally, if your office has “phone extensions” or a private branch exchange (PBX), your telephone system will require programming for 2-1-1 access. Have your telephone system administrator contact Cathy or Karen at 800.570-7284 for instructions.




Are there other telephones that cannot access 2-1-1?


2-1-1 is generally an excluded service from hospitals, hotels, colleges, jails and any telephone where there is a separate charge for making a call.




Can I use my TTY (telephone typewriter)/TDD (telephone device for the deaf) to call 2-1-1?


You may use your TTY/TDD.  2-1-1 will utilize Illinois Relay (711) and/or a TTY/TTD to respond to deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired currently. 2-1-1 Centers seek to serve callers with no barriers.




Why am I getting a fast busy when I dial 2-1-1?


Telephones that are not yet programmed for 2-1-1 will produce either a “fast busy” or a “not in service” recording. If you hear either of these and are calling from an “active” 2-1-1 area, report the issue to Cathy or Karen at 800.570.7284.  Do NOT call your local telecommunications provider.




When will all of Illinois have 2-1-1?


Illinois 2-1-1 developed a plan for full statewide implementation, although it will take several years to ensure that all residents have 2-1-1 access through all types of telephones (residential, business, pay phones, wireless/cellular).


To date, three Centers offer 2-1-1 in more than 15 counties. 




Is there a 2-1-1 tax on my phone bill?


No. There is no 2-1-1 tax or surcharge now and 2-1-1 Illinois is not advocating one. (911 and 711 currently have separate additional fees on your telephone bill.)




What if I have problems dialing 2-1-1?


Callers from businesses and organizations with standard land-based phone systems should be able to pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1 with no problem.


For organizations with in-house PBX telephone systems, programming modifications may need to be made to enable three-digit dialing to ensure that employees have easy access to 2-1-1. Typically, your telecommunications staff or a service provider can make this simple adjustment. Some callers from locations served by a PBX may need to dial 9 (or another prefix) before entering the 2-1-1 code, just like any other outside call.  However, most PBX systems currently allow only one 3 digit number – 911.


United Way 211 encourages PBX administrators to implement the necessary programming changes to facilitate 2-1-1 dialing for users. A 2-1-1 specialist can also be reached 24/7 by calling 800-570-7284.




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