Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Board of Supervisors



November 17, 2009


December 1, 2009







Honorable Board of Supervisors


Supervisor Adrienne Tissier


United Way of the Bay Area Application Before California Public Utilities Commission for Licensure to Operate 211 in San Mateo County



Adopt a resolution endorsing United Way of the Bay Area’s application before the California Public Utilities Commission for a 211 license for the area within San Mateo County and directing the President of the Board to execute letter of endorsement.



The Federal Communications Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have set aside the three-digit prefix "211" for the exclusive use of local community information and referral programs to allow quick and easy access to trained resource specialists. CPUC will grant a 211 license for an indefinite term, upon receipt of a complete application, which consists of a three-year budget and letters of support, including the endorsement of the Board of Supervisors.


211 is considered to be an efficient method to provide information and referral of community services by an array of private, nonprofit and government agencies. Callers to 211 are able to access basic human needs, housing assistance, employment services, physical and mental health resources, senior services, as well as services for children youth and families. 211 has also been recognized to serve as a valuable public information resource during crises and natural disasters, able to increase the capacity of emergency services systems and to relieve the burden on the 911 system, particularly during disasters.


Currently, the United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) is the CPUC-licensed 211 provider for Solano, Marin, Napa and San Francisco Counties, and is a major funder of the 211 operators in Contra Costa and Alameda. In Sonoma County, the United Way of the Wine Country holds the PUC license. In Santa Clara County, the United Way of Silicon Valley holds the license and currently contracts with Ventura County for service. Nationwide the split is about 50/50, with half of the 211 systems being operated by United Way and half operated by local agencies or other nonprofit providers. The County Manager’s Office surveyed four counties: Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara, to learn more about their operations, funding and costs. Though the exact funding arrangements are not known, it is believed that these systems are funded with a mix of public and private, with support from foundations, corporations, government agencies, as well as nonprofits. UWBA also convenes and facilitates all the Bay Area 211 providers to work together as a regional system for purposes of disaster preparedness and response, setting service standards, information sharing, and community outreach.


Surveyed counties were quick to point out that the call volume to 211 and the accompanying websites are steadily increasing and that they have expanded services. For example, some 211 systems in California offer pre-screening of eligibility for food stamps. Regionally, the 211 systems coordinated their efforts to inform Bay Area residents about the digital TV (DTV) conversion. Individual 211 systems take on special projects in their communities. The Santa Clara County 211 system, for example, is currently completing a pilot project with Kaiser Permanente around diabetes education. In San Francisco, 211 works with the city to help families access the summer free and reduced school lunch program. 211 systems are able to push out both urgent and sustained community information.



In 2009, with Marin and Sonoma counties opting-in to 211, the UWBA renewed its efforts to gain San Mateo County’s participation to complete the Bay Area regional system. UWBA reports that it has successfully generated the required funds to start up and operate for the first two years for San Mateo County. As a result, the UWBA has requested the Board of Supervisors support its application before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to be awarded the license.


The Health and Human Services Committee recommends that the Board endorse UWBA’s application. At its November 10, 2009 meeting, there was discussion regarding UWBA’s 211 application and the need for sustainable funding for the 211 service. UWBA is committed to work with community stakeholders in its ongoing efforts to ensure sustainable funding and will collaborate with the highly reliable Community Information Project (CIP) comprehensive database of community services for San Mateo County.


I recommend that this Board adopt a resolution endorsing UWBA’s application before the CPUC and directing the Board President to send a letter of endorsement.



None in FY 2009-10 and FY 2010-11. Unknown in future years, but it is anticipated that UWBA will work with community stakeholders to ensure sustainable funding.