Grocers, suppliers and associations in the Northeast are adjusting hours, establishing safety protocols and distributing information regarding the coronavirus crisis. Following are some of the latest developments.
Premium wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard USA said it will produce and donate hand sanitizer to help in the national fight against the Covid-19 virus.
The hand sanitizer will be produced at all of Pernod Ricard USA’s manufacturing sites, including: their facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Smooth Ambler Spirits (Lewisburg, West Virginia), Rabbit Hole Distillery (Louisville, Kentucky) and TX Whiskey Distillery (Ft. Worth, Texas).
“Our company is proud to support the efforts of the Administration and communities across the country in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ann Mukherjee, chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard North America.
Mukherjee credited federal officials, including Dr. Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing, for their role in helping Pernod Ricard USA quickly navigate several regulatory hurdles and obtain the necessary approvals to produce American-made hand sanitizer.
“In coordination with Dr. Navarro and the White House Task Force, we are utilizing our network of American manufacturing sites to help curb the national shortage of hand sanitizer which we will produce and donate for domestic use,” Mukherjee said. “The health and safety of our employees – and our communities – is our top priority. In times like this it is important that everyone, especially companies with strong U.S. roots, like ours, prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good. I am glad that we were able to form this public/private partnership and repurpose our spirits production facilities to meet a pressing, national need.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commended Pernod Ricard USA’s efforts, saying, “I am proud of Kentucky job creators who are stepping up during this national emergency to help keep communities and families safe. America remains strong and resilient, and the commitment of Pernod Ricard USA and the workers at Rabbit Hole Distillery to help face this challenge is the kind of generous response we need to stay that way.”
Pernod Ricard USA is working with the U.S. Government on plans for distribution of the hand sanitizer.
Giant Food sets shopping hours for seniors
Effective Friday, March 20, Giant Food of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware will offer dedicated shopping hours for senior citizens 60-and-older and individuals with compromised immune systems. Every store in our operating areas will reserve 6-7 a.m., every day of the week for this vulnerable population to shop and practice social distancing. The stores will operate on regular hours of operation during all other times. The new hours are in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Giant Food is headquartered in Landover, Maryland and operates 163 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia with approximately 20,000 associates.
Massachusetts temporarily suspends bottle redemption enforcement
Effective immediately, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, are suspending enforcement of the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit until further notice or until the current state of emergency is terminated.
This action is being taken because many grocers, supermarkets and other retail operations have indicated that they are overwhelmed with an unprecedented volume of customers purchasing provisions so they can spend time at home to help in the effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Temporarily suspending enforcement of these requirements will allow individual retailers to assess their operations and, if necessary and appropriate, shift staffing to enable smoother operations and limit any contamination that potentially could occur from staff handling used beverage containers.
Consumers are encouraged to hold on to their deposit containers for redemption at a later date or to recycle those containers with existing household recycling.
MassDEP and the Attorney’s General Office will assess the crisis situation on an ongoing basis and notify grocers, supermarkets, and other retailers when redemption services must resume and the temporary enforcement suspension ends.
The Giant Co. modifies operating hours
The Giant Co., based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, issued several updates as part of its efforts during the Covid-19 crisis, including modified hours that help care for older members of the community.
“We are grateful for our team members who are working tirelessly around the clock to restock our store shelves and online fulfillment centers and continuing to serve our customers and communities during this unprecedented time,” said Nicholas Bertram, president, The Giant Co.. “While all of our stores remain open and operational, we do have some updates to share which will enable us to help get products on shelves sooner and continue serving customers while protecting the health and wellbeing of our team members.”
In order to allow more time for team members to sanitize, unload deliveries, stock shelves, and better serve customers throughout the day, all store hours will be adjusted to 6 a.m.-10 p.m. beginning Thursday, March 19, until further notice.
New store hours for customers 60 and older
According to the CDC, the members of our population who are age 60 and older are most vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus. To support this group, beginning Thursday, March 19, all Giant, Martin’s and Giant Heirloom Market stores will open from 6-7 a.m. daily in order to service only customers who are age 60 and older.
This will allow customers in this age category to shop in a less crowded environment, which enables social distancing. They’ll also be shopping prior to any other customers entering. Although team members will not request ID for entry, the company asks its customers to respect the purpose of the early opening.
Beginning immediately, Giant is placing a limit of “two” on key categories throughout the store, including paper goods and disinfectant products.
The Giant Co. is hiring temporary and part-time team members across its family of brands. Immediate positions as service associates, cashiers, general stock clerks, drivers and fulfillment center selectors are available. Those interested, including anyone whose employment may have been affected by the pandemic, can apply online at the Giant or Martin’s websites or speak with any store manager.
The Giant Co. continues to offer delivery and pickup through Giant Direct and Martin’s Direct. Available slots are limited, and the company is working to expand capacity. Currently, only contactless deliveries for all customers in all areas until further notice. Contactless delivery means that the driver will practice social distancing during the delivery process.
Massachusetts Food Association addresses pandemic issues
The Massachusetts Food Association issued the following statement regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:
State agencies and businesses have expressed concerns about certain problems resulting from shortages of items on shelves and fear of spreading the coronavirus. Members are reminded that we all must work together in a reasonable and rational manner. Some of the problems include:
- Reports of price gouging on certain items, including bulk bags of rice, beans and similar products, which could be investigated by the Attorney General’s office;
- If retailers are placing limits on the number of certain items that can be purchased during a single shopping trip, proper signage should be placed conspicuously at the shelf where the item is located, explaining the limit so shoppers know when they pull the product from the shelf and are aware before they reach checkout;
- All price guarantee policies must remain in effect. Retail stores cannot waive this law for any reason, the Division of Standards mentioned this may be occurring;
- We have heard that receivers are refusing to sign vendor delivery receipts for fear of cross contamination of the virus. This is problematic for vendors who need to prove delivery of product was made and for them to get paid. Receipt of delivery is needed for proof of payment.
According to the National Grocers Association, on Saturday March 14 the House passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a wide margin. The bill provides paid leave, food assistance, an expansion of unemployment insurance, and additional Medicaid funding to States. It also includes a paid sick leave portion of the bill which requires small businesses (500 employees or less) to comply with expanded sick leave requirements.
Employers will be required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to employees affected by the coronavirus. For two weeks, or 80 hours total, employees impacted by coronavirus will receive emergency paid time off. After two weeks, employees could remain off the job and get paid up to two-thirds of their regular rate of pay under an expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program that expires at the end of the year. Although the bill provides tax credits to offset the cost to the employer, it provides a broad set of covered sick leave justifications that employees can use to take paid sick leave during the coronavirus public health emergency.
National Trade groups, including NGA are requesting that Congress make changes before the bill reaches the President, as the paid sick leave provisions could trigger a shortage of critical food industry workers. In response, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced that the IRS would provide a cash advance for companies that claim the paid leave tax credit to shore up any potential cash flow challenges.
On Monday, March 16 Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state would offer emergency loans of up to $75,000 to small businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis. Baker said the $10 million small business recovery loan fund will make loans available immediately to businesses with fewer than 50 full- or part-time employees, including nonprofits.