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United Way Steps In To Help Those Affected By Government Shutdown

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - As the government shutdown drags on affecting thousands, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has stepped up with a special service to help those who find themselves stretched financially.

"We have a 2-1-1 Help Line, so you can dial 2-1-1 on your phone, press 2-1-1 like you would 9-1-1," says United Way's Angela Reynolds.

The phone call will be answered by a real human being, a resource navigator, says Reynolds, who appeared on a taping of the Sunday Business Page on Thursday.

"We're able to connect people to food resources, utility assistance. Also there are people who are worried about paying their housing, so eviction prevention, foreclosure prevention, the gamut," Reynolds told KDKA money editor Jon Delano. "We also have free tax preparation service. So there are many people who are looking to get their refund because the IRS has said they are still going to process their refunds."

Banks can also be helpful if a mortgage is due.

"There are many bank partners who are coming in and making sure that if they're going to miss a mortgage payment, there won't be challenges there," Reynolds said.

Because United Way is supported by so many local businesses and organizations, large and small, it has access to problem-solvers.

"We have some really great partners in this region. From the foundation community, the corporate community, agency partners. Everyone comes together, pulls together, in a time of need," says Reynolds.

The 2-1-1 service is not just for government workers but anyone hurt by this shutdown, and calls are already starting to come in.

Reynolds: "Over 86 percent of those who have contacted us have contacted us for the first time. They did not know where to turn for help. They saw something that said contact 2-1-1 and they reached out and contacted us."
Delano: "Did they have a specific need?"
Reynolds: "Yes, so far what we're seeing is that it's housing, utilities, and food. So that over 43 percent of those that have contacted us are for utility assistance, and the other 42 percent need assistance with housing or food."

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