ORLANDO, Fla. – The Heart of Florida United Way said their assistance hotline has been flooded with calls from workers who were laid off in the Orlando area seeking help amid the spread of the coronavirus.
President and CEO Jeff Hayward said the 211 hotline usually sees around 700 calls each day.
By 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the hotline had taken 2,400 calls.
"I think we need to acknowledge right now that these are unprecedented times," Hayward said.
He said many of the callers were seeking financial assistance, while others had questions about the coronavirus.
He said his agency has established the ALICE Recovery Fund (asset limited, income constrained and employed).
Hayward said the fund has $160,000, so far, and he didn't feel it was nearly enough to help the people who need it.
"We are challenged in meeting the demand that we’re already seeing, and my fear is this is just starting," he said.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a coronavirus economic recovery bill, which would set aside billions of dollars for expanded sick leave and free coronavirus testing.
President Trump signed it on Wednesday night.
Senators said they're working on a new phase of relief that they hoped would include direct relief to workers impacted by layoffs.
Sen. Marco Rubio had his own proposal.
It's geared toward small businesses, and if approved, it would allow small businesses to get loans to pay for workers' salaries and operational costs for six weeks.
Some of the loans may not need to be paid back.
"I think there’s broad, general agreement that small businesses in this country will not be able to survive unless there’s extraordinary assistance,” Rubio said in a news conference.
In the meantime, the Small Business Administration announced on Wednesday night that’s approved Florida’s request for a disaster declaration.
It activated its website, where small business owners can apply for assistance.
Hayward said the relief cannot come fast enough.
For more information on United Way assistance, dial 211 on your phone.