FORT MYERS — All week we’ve been bringing you stories from people trying to file for unemployment, but getting left on hold.
Now we’re finally getting a look at the other end of the phone line. In Lee County, there is only one person right now answering all those calls. If you’re one of the lucky few who get through, you’ll hear the voice of Natalie Griffin on the other end.
“At this time, I’m the only one in Lee County that has access to that website, so I’ve been extremely busy," said Griffin.
Griffin is one of the few approved by the state to handle people’s sensitive information. That means she listens to story after story, all day long, from people trying to collect unemployment.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s devastating, but we’re here to help," said Griffin.
Griffin works for CareerSource, a company trying to help the state with the overwhelming amount of applications right now.
“In 2019, there were about 307,000 claims for unemployment. In the last two weeks, we’ve had about 348,000," said CareerSource Communications Manager Janeth Castrejon.
The company hosted a news conference Friday. CEO Joe Paterno said right now, for five counties in Southwest Florida, there are only four to five people like Griffin, but CareerSource is hoping to get another 15 to 20 trained before Monday.
“As soon as we have all the people trained and they have their privileges, we think we can really cut down on the number of people who are making those calls every day. At least cut down on their frustration," said Paterno.
Until then, Griffin said she’s doing everything she can to address the need.
“I’m going to get through as many as I possibly can. I’m going to be here on Saturday and Sunday and seven days a week if I have to be," said Griffin.
When CareerSource does finally get more people trained and approved by the state, they’re going to initially be working from home, but Paterno said, if need be, they may fully reopen their offices to meet the demand.