FORT MYERS — Businesses are shutting down because of COVID-19, and that means thousands of people in our area are already out of work.
In Cape Coral and Fort Myers, the signs are everywhere. Closed for business. The parking lots in shopping centers are close to empty. Most of those companies said it’s just temporary, and they provide a date when they plan to reopen, but outside Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant, the closed sign is permanent.
“Around 12:30, every employee got a message on Schedulefly, stating that we were closed permanently. Never told why, and that was it, we were all jobless at that point," said Nicole Blackmon, who worked as a food runner at the restaurant.
Blackmon said she had no idea it was coming, and it wasn’t until hours later that she got an explanation.
“On the Leopardi’s Facebook page, they said they were closing due to COVID and the health concerns of employees and staff and whatnot," said Blackmon.
The owner said 38 employees are now out of a job, but unfortunately, cases like this are not out of the ordinary.
“I’m getting calls statewide. Everyone’s being impacted by COVID-19," said Ken Lawson, the Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
On his department's website, there’s a notice right now, telling people looking for assistance to expect a wait.
“It’s unprecedented. We’re seeing a high number of new applicants coming through," said Blackmon.
But Lawson said they are getting help to people who need it.
“You’ll receive funds up to 12 weeks, and it’s from $32 to $275 a week, but bottom line, it’s a level of funds to help you feed your family and get through this crisis," said Blackmon.
Blackmon said, if she can’t find anyone else who’s hiring, she might need that assistance to make rent.
“If worse comes to worst, unemployment. Hopefully I can find another job for temporary purposes and make it by," said Blackmon.
Lawson said, the best way for people to apply for unemployment assistance right now is through the website FloridaJobs.org.