Walmart won’t apply for pandemic hazard pay for Vermont employees

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Companies like Walmart and Shaw’s have decided not to apply for the program which would help hundreds of Vermont employees. It’s prompted state senators to release a memo urging them to reverse their decision.

“For Walmart or any employer to literally block its employees from receiving them, it’s just immoral,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe.

Ashe is among 5 Vermont senators expressing disappointment over the decision. In October, the state approved a program that would provide $1200 to part time employees and $2,000 to full time staff who make less than $25 an hour and worked during the early months of the pandemic. The grants would impact workers at Walmart’s 6 locations throughout Vermont.

“We believe it’s a modest but meaningful recognition of the sacrifice they made,” Ashe said. “By people who are often overlooked in society. We didn’t want to continue that unfair oversight of the valuable role they play in our communities.

It’s the second round of hazard pay checks, aimed specifically at retail and grocery store workers.

“They were in direct contact with many members of the public who may or may not have been taking precautions,” Ashe said. “High stress, heightened risk of contracting covid, many did get sick, and many faced a lot of abuse from customers.”

In a statement, Walmart responded saying in part

“We’ve invested more than $1 billion in our associates nationwide, with three special cash bonuses, in addition to our quarterly incentive bonus program. We believe the intent of the taxpayer-funded Vermont front line employees hazard pay grant program is to assist small and medium employers in the state who might be unable to pay a similar bonus, and we hope those funds can be more appropriately used by those employers.”

Ashe says not only has Walmart declined to apply, but he’s recently learned Shaw’s supermarkets has made the same choice.

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