Amid the daily headlines of negative news regarding COVID-19, it’s important to take stock of positive news. Like World War II, Americans now need to come together.
In World War II, many businesses changed their primary focus and began manufacturing products and materials for the war effort. Today, businesses and organizations are again leading the way.
In Arkansas, a number of businesses and organizations have stepped up.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have announced they will donate $25 million to support organizations on the front lines responding to the global coronavirus outbreak. The funds will be used to strengthen the global public health response, bolster food security and support the needs of local communities in the U.S. and internationally.
Walmart also said it plans to hire 150,000 hourly associates in the U.S. and announced $550 million in cash bonuses to reward workers amid the (COVID-19) coronavirus pandemic. The retail giant said it will pay hourly store employees a small cash bonus of $300 to $150, depending on full or part-time. Every employee as of March 1 will qualify for the bonus, to be paid on April 4, which will total more than $365 million. Walmart said it is accelerating its next scheduled quarterly bonus for store, club and supply chain employees a month early to also pay out in April, to put more money into the hands of employees.
Cox Communications is upgrading internet speeds for select residential packages and implementing a variety of other changes to provide support and relief for their customers and communities in greatest need.
Tyson Foods, Inc. is donating two million pounds of food to foodbanks. With so many schools and daycares now closed and layoffs occurring, food is a major need for people.
Entergy Arkansas has suspended disconnections for 30 days. (Entergy has not waived late fees or any charges due.) They are also working and communicating with large business and industrial customers. Operationally, they are making certain they have a base of employees to keep the power flowing.
Signature Bank of Arkansas recently contacted all its restaurant customers, lowered rates on loans and provided its customers extended payment terms. In order to support the Northwest Arkansas local restaurant industry, which has been hit particularly hard with fewer people going out to eat, Signature Bank has been having local restaurants provide food at lunch each day during the week to bank employees (their bank lobbies are closed, but their employees are still working.)
Pernod-Ricard, a manufacturer and distributor of wine and spirits, is retooling its Kahlua line at its Fort Smith plant to begin manufacturing hand sanitizer, which is currently in short supply in the U.S.
Waste Management of Arkansas is working to ensure that its 45,000 team members remain on a full-time status, so residential and business garbage and waste can continue to be picked up on schedule.
The Arkansas Community Foundation has established a statewide COVID-19 Relief Fund. Contributions to the fund will provide rapid-response grants to nonprofit organizations working on the front lines.
Black Hills Energy is temporarily suspending nonpayment disconnections for its customers. They are also offering various assistance options such as payment arrangements, budget billing and medical extensions.
Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock is making its own hand sanitizer and providing it free to the general public.
The State Chamber/AIA would like to hear from businesses and manufacturers in the state regarding your efforts to combat COVID-19. Please reach out to us and share your stories. We are all in this together and good news is a positive way to raise morale during these difficult times.