Special to the Opelika Observer

The Kroger Family of Companies announced last Wednesday that it will provide all hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates with a Hero Bonus – a $2 premium above their standard base rate of pay, applied to hours worked March 29 through April 18. The premium will be disbursed weekly to ensure associates have access to additional cash.

 In Kroger’s Atlanta Division, which includes Georgia, Eastern Alabama and South Carolina, more than 25,000 hourly frontline heroes will receive the bonus.

 “Our Atlanta Division associates are going the extra mile every day to make sure customers have access to the food and supplies they need during these troubled times,” said Felix Turner, manager of corporate affairs for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “The Hero Bonus premium will be paid to hourly, frontline associates in our retail stores, manufacturing plants, distribution centers, central fills, pharmacies and call centers who work any hours between March 29 and April 18. New hires are eligible for the Hero Bonus.”

 According to Turner, the premium will be applied in appropriate fashion to overtime hours worked – paid, for example, at a time-and-a-half rate or double-time.

Wednesday’s announcement follows and is in addition to Kroger’s previous commitment shared on March 21, which provided a one-time bonus to frontline associates, which pays out on April 3.

 “Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the frontlines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “The Hero Bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates but also to the more than 30,000 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks and those who will soon join the Kroger Family of Companies.”

 “Recently, we announced an appreciation bonus for our hourly frontline associates. This gesture was to thank our associates for everything they have done during the past few weeks,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief people officer. “However, we recognize that this crisis is far from over, and after reflecting on associate feedback and working together with our union partners, we want to further acknowledge our terrific team for their hard work to date as well as the work yet to come.”
Associate and Customer Well-being and Safety

 “During this unprecedented time, Kroger’s most urgent priority is to provide a safe environment for associates and customers, with open stores and an efficiently operating supply chain,” McMullen added.

 To protect associates and customers and flatten the curve, The Kroger Family of Companies has taken several preventive steps, including:
-Enhancing their daily sanitation practices, including cleaning commonly used areas more often like cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, food service counters and shelves.
-Permitting and working hard to procure protective masks and gloves for associates.
-Installing plexiglass partitions at check lanes, and pharmacy and Starbucks registers across the enterprise.
-Adding floor decals to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters.
-Adjusting store operating hours to allow more time for associates to rest, clean and replenish inventory.
-Continuing to expand pickup and delivery services and contactless payment solutions like Kroger Pay.
Additional Associate Support and Resources
In addition to the Hero Bonus and appreciation bonus, The Kroger Family of Companies is taking several additional actions to support associates during this extraordinary time, including:
-Ensuring associates who are affected by COVID-19 – whether experiencing symptoms and self-isolating, diagnosed or placed in quarantine – can recover with the support of emergency paid leave.
-Beginning next week, the Kroger Family of Companies is adding ExpressPay – a new benefit that allows most hourly associates to access some of their pay faster, putting money in their pockets sooner than usual.
-Making $5 million available for those facing hardship, including lack of access to childcare and for those considered higher-risk, due to COVID-19 through the Kroger Family of Companies Helping Hands fund.
-Offering an associate hotline to answer benefit questions quickly.
-Providing access to mental health services and other benefits to support associates’ mental and physical well-being during this stressful time.  
-Supporting associates by on-boarding more than 30,600 new hires in the last two weeks, including workers from the hardest-hit sectors like restaurants, hotels and food service distributors.
Community Support and Uplift
The Kroger Family of Companies is also uplifting communities in a variety of ways during this unprecedented time, including:
The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is rapidly deploying more than $3 million in hunger-relief resources to communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through its nonprofit partners, Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. The funding will not only support local food banks nationwide, but also fund initiatives that ensure children, whose schools may be closed, still have access to nutritious meals.
Making it easy for customers to support The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation’s mission to create communities free of hunger and waste by choosing to roundup their purchases to the nearest dollar at every self-checkout lane or donate at ZeroHungerZeroWasteFoundation.org.
Donating food and funds to local food banks and hunger-relief efforts.
The Kroger Co. Foundation supported the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program and Disaster Responder Program at the $500,000 level for 2020, enabling the Red Cross to develop capacity, leaders and resources to provide relief.
About The Kroger Co.
At The Kroger Co., they are fresh for everyone and dedicated to a common purpose: to feed the human spirit. Nearly half a million associates who serve more than 11 million customers daily through a seamless shopping experience under the Kroger Family of Companies. They are committed to creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025.