Walmart — the nation’s largest private employer —says it’s not going to apply for special pandemic state grants for workers at its six Vermont locations. Vermont set up a grant program earlier this year to give a financial boost of up to $2,000 each to the state’s front-line workers, ranging from health care workers to grocery clerks.
The grants, which provide either $1,200 for part-time workers or $2,000 for full-time employees, are paid through the state’s coronavirus relief funds and don’t rely on financial support from corporations. But the state set up the program by requiring that employers apply on behalf of their workers, a decision that was made for “administrative simplicity,” according to a statement from five Vermont state senators.
Walmart told CBS MoneyWatch it decided not to apply for the grants because the retailer has already paid more than $1.1 billion in bonuses to many of its 1.5 million workers across the nation due to their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. It said it believes that the intent of Vermont’s program is “to assist small and medium employers in the state who might be unable to pay a similar bonus,” according to a Walmart spokeswoman.
The Vermont state senators called the Walmart decision “cruel.” Michael Sirotkin, one of the senators who issued the statement, told CBS MoneyWatch that the program was geared to employers of all sizes, and that he hopes Walmart will reconsider a stance that deprives more than 1,000 Walmart employees in Vermont of a local benefit.
The typical Walmart worker in Vermont earns $14.48 an hour, according to Walmart.
“It’s mind-boggling to me that they wouldn’t want to help their employees with this extra cash,” he said. “This ain’t right.”
Vermont is accepting applications from employers for the grants through November 13, or until funds are no longer available, whichever comes first.
Coronavirus cases are hitting new records in the U.S. On Wednesday, more thanwere recorded, while roughly 122,000 new cases were reported Thursday. Hospitalizations across the nation are also soaring, with at least 16 states breaking records. While Vermont has recorded dozens of new cases in early November, it has among the nation’s lowest per capita rate of cases, according to the New York Times.