OTTUMWA — Two major Iowa-based grocery chains have announced plans that will help their employees financially during the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Fareway Stores announced Wednesday evening its Fareway Family Frontline Plan to provide cash bonuses and additional paid time off for its hourly employees who have worked on the frontlines during the past several weeks. Hy-Vee is also offering a frontline employee appreciation bonus for all its part-time and full-time store employees.

Hy-Vee employees will receive a 10 percent bonus on their hours worked between March 16 and April 12. Fareway will provide a one-time cash bonus that will be paid to hourly employees under the age of 18.

Part-time employees at Fareway age 18 and older will receive an additional 20 hours of paid time off. Full-time hourly employees will receive an additional 40 hours of paid time off. Assistant managers and warehouse foremen will each receive an additional 47 hours of paid time off. All Fareway employees can choose to use the additional time off or receive a cash payment for the time.

Bonuses through the Fareway Family Frontline Plan range up to $1,200 per employee with a total investment of several million dollars to approximately 8,500 frontline employees. The Fareway corporate office will distribute the bonuses to qualifying hourly employees on Friday, April 3.

“Our Fareway Family on the Frontlines have worked tirelessly to serve our customers during these last several weeks,” Reynolds W. Carter, Fareway president and CEO, said. “Our part-time and full-time store employees, office support, warehouse personnel and transportation department have risen to the challenge.

“Whether it’s additional cash in their pocket or paid time off to be with family and friends, we want to reward these hourly employees for their hard work and willingness to fulfill the new expectations of our customers now and into the future.”

Hy-Vee is also offering new benefits to more than 80,000 employees in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Hy-Vee will be offering job protective leave for employees who either test positive for COVID-19 and/or are required by health officials to self-quarantine.

“Our employees are our most valuable asset. We must do everything we can to support them and their families during this critical time,” Hy-Vee Chairman Randy Edeker said. “We hope these new benefits will help lighten the load for our employees who are working around the clock to serve our customers in our stores.”

The protective leave benefit will provide job protection for a minimum of two weeks and applies to all Hy-Vee employees, no matter the length of service. Under this benefit, full-time Hy-Vee employees enrolled in short-term disability will also receive a minimum of two weeks paid time off.

Hy-Vee also announced a second benefit offering employees affordable access to telehealth services, including mental health. The supermarket chain is waiving co-pays for all full-time employees and their dependents who utilize the 24-hour virtual medical service and will allow part-time employees to use the service for a minimal fee per visit.

Both Fareway and Hy-Vee have adjusted store hours, including the hours at the Ottumwa and surrounding community locations. Both have allowed windows for citizens 65-and-older, with increased susceptibility to serious illness or expecting mothers to shop separately from the the general public in order to keep those with higher health risks from catching the coronavirus. Both stores have also moved up store-closing hours to allow additional time to clean and sanitize all areas as well as restock the items that are in the highest demand.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an emergency proclamation temporarily suspending regulations for commercial vehicles transporting agricultural supplies and commodities. Those commodities include, but are not limited to livestock, raw milk and crop supplies to ensure stores are able to be restocked in a timely manner.

Tyson Foods CEO Noel White has stated that grocery store shelves will soon be restocked with meat products following a recent surge in demand. According to White, Tyson has made changes to its processing facilities to increase supplies for grocery stores instead of restaurants to ensure an ample food supply is available for those staying home practicing “social distancing” in hopes of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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