As unemployment skyrockets, the United Way is getting 30 to 40 calls every hour

As unemployment skyrockets, the United Way is getting 30 to 40 calls an hour
Posted at 7:27 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 19:27:36-04

FORT MYERS — People are filing for unemployment in record numbers across the state of Florida.

Last week, 227,000 people submitted a claim, shattering the state record, but those people are also turning to non-profits for help. We spoke with United Way CEO Jeannine Joy over Skype Thursday.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know really when the end is going to be," said Joy.

She said the number of calls coming in for assistance is overwhelming.

“Yesterday, we were taking between 30 and 40 calls an hour. A lot of people are calling about rental assistance, utility assistance, and food resources," said Joy.

She said her non-profit is scrambling to make sure it has enough people answering the phones.

“We do have some other staff that do have 211 experience that we are trying to pull into that department to offer some relief and some extra people on the phone lines," said Joy.

That reality reflects the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor. Last week, the number of people filing for unemployment in Florida grew by more than 300% over the week before. With the numbers continuing to go up, Joy is asking people to talk to their landlord and visit food banks before turning to the United Way.

“This is going to last a while, so we want to make sure that we’re still going to be able to help them next month when they’ve already used their stimulus money," said Joy.

But for those who do have to turn to the United Way for help, Joy hopes they can accommodate them in a timely fashion.

"We’re hoping that the volume doesn’t increase too much. Some people may experience a little bit longer wait time," said Joy.

If you do need help from the United Way for food, rental, or utility assistance, you can just dial 2-1-1. They have people answering the phones from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.