Coronavirus - Family Focus: United Way of Northeast Florida reports calls for help have quadrupled

Family Focus: Local families needing help increased 4x

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — COVID-19 is packing a punch for families in Northeast Florida, as the United Way reports they’re asking for help four times more than ever before.

The United Way of Northeast Florida is responding by preparing to survey the community to see exactly how they can help families.

“We can also look at where we were pre-COVID and understand where we are and really set our direction moving forward,” Rosimar Melendez, with the United Way of Northeast Florida, said.

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Melendez is creating a survey for families to take starting Jan. 4, through Jan. 24.

“Before the pandemic hit, nearly 40% of households in Northeast Florida struggled to make ends meet. We are certain that that number is higher now,” Melendez added.

Melendez said the United Way’s helpline has been flooded since March when the pandemic hit. Back in October of 2019, the helpline had roughly 1,800 calls, she explained, and by October of 2020, that number rose to over 6,000 calls.

Melendez said families are primarily asking for help paying for rent and mortgages, utilities, child needs, and transportation. But she’s also seeing an increase in calls for mental health support.

“This type of stressful situation and the financial burden that families are facing certainly puts the stress in mental health so we know that’s indicative of what we see moving forward and that’s one of the biggest areas that we need to address along with the economic mobility of our families,” she explained.

Melendez is hoping for lots of answers from the community, which she will then take to the city. She said the public can expect a full report by springtime.