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UPDATE: Kroger to provide free COVID-19 testing for frontline employees

It's going to cost you if want cash back at Kroger. (MGN)
It's going to cost you if want cash back at Kroger. (MGN)(WILX)
Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 2:18 PM EDT
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UPDATE 5/05/2020

The Kroger Family of Companies announced the continued protection of frontline associates by making free COVID-19 testing available, based on symptoms and medical need. Paired with additional safety measures, Kroger remains committed to protecting the health and well-being of its associates.

“At Kroger, the safety and health of our associates and customers remains our top priority during this unprecedented time,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief people officer. “Our associates have worked tirelessly to provide communities continued access to fresh, affordable food. We are dedicated to providing support and gratitude to our associates across the country.”

This month, Kroger Health – the healthcare division of the company – will begin offering COVID-19 testing to associates, based on symptoms and medical need. Tests will be a combination of self-administered kits and the company’s public drive-thru testing sites. Kroger Health’s expansion to test more associates joins the COVID-19 testing the team has already been supporting in areas with high incident rates.

“The resilience of the Kroger family is unparalleled, and we’re doing all we can to keep our team healthy and safe,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. “The widespread availability of diagnostic testing will now allow our associates to feel more empowered and knowledgeable about their health, creating safer stores and facilities.”

UPDATE 4/21/2020 4:48 P.M.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Kroger Mid-Atlantic is implementing a number of policies and programs in an attempt to support customers and employees. The company is taking the following steps to protect customers and contribute to the community:

– Kroger is now accepting SNAP Benefits for pickup orders placed via its website or the Kroger mobile app. The low-contact, convenient service allows customers to shop online for groceries on Kroger.com or the Kroger app and pick up their order curbside at a nearby Kroger store.

– Kroger is temporarily waiving its pickup service fee nationwide, with no minimum order threshold. Kroger is making several changes to its pickup offerings for customers:

-Kroger is expanding the number of available slots to customers daily

-Customers can now see and book up to seven days out. Previously,

the limit was three days.

-Customers can now sort by next available time slot - this gives

customers the opportunity to look at a broader range of stores that

might have a sooner pickup window.

– On April 7, Kroger began to limit the number of customers to 50% of the international building code’s calculated capacity to allow for proper physical distancing in every store. In addition, dedicated entrances and exits have been established at each store. Kroger is following state and local ordinances that require further restrictions.

– The Round-up to support Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation program. Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic division is now allowing customers to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar and/or make select donations of $1, $5 and $10 at checkout to support Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. Customers can also donate when shopping with pickup.

– The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation announced a $3 million commitment to rapidly deploy hunger-relief resources to communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation's $3 million commitment will be equally distributed between the Foundation's 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.

– Kroger Mid-Atlantic has directed $250,000 to hunger relief efforts in recent weeks. A variation of product and cash gifts, the donations have gone to restocking food bank shelves, replenishing food pantries for seniors, ensuring children have access to meals since schools closed and more.

– Kroger Mid-Atlantic is supporting Feeding America and its partner agencies by collecting non-perishable food items. Customers can donate non-perishable food items into collection bins, which have been placed at the front of Mid-Atlantic stores.

In addition, Kroger is taking the following steps to ensure the safety of its employees:

– On March 31, Kroger announced it would 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. On April 16, Kroger announced it would extend its Hero Bonus through May 2. Kroger provided a one-time payment to hourly grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associates, amounting to $300 for full-time associate and $150 for part-time associate. In addition to this bonus, Kroger gave each associate $25 for groceries, and stores are providing food for associates as well.

– For those affected by COVID-19, additional resources are available through Kroger’s Helping Hands Fund – a company-sponsored fund that provides financial assistance to associates who are experiencing a financial hardship due to an unexpected or emergency situation.

– Kroger is advocating to government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place in line for all grocery workers - after health care workers - to have access to protective masks and gloves. Kroger stores have started to receive personal protective equipment, and more is on the way. At this point in time, Kroger Mid-Atlantic is recommending associates wear masks, but it is not required.

– On March 21, Kroger expanded its COVID-19 emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional. This expands the existing guidelines, announced on March 14, which allow paid time off for associates diagnosed with or placed under quarantine due to COVID-19. In each scenario, all associates will be eligible to receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days).

– Kroger Mid-Atlantic has hired close to 3,400 associates since March 22. Positions exist across retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. Candidates may apply via jobs.kroger.com, and could be placed for employment within several days of applying.

Kroger is doing the following to adjust its store operations:

– Installing plexiglass shields at registers to further promote physical distancing.

– Installing educational floor decals to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters.

– Cleaning commonly used areas multiple times an hour, including cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, conveyor belts

and food service counters, and cleaning shelves when restocking products.

– Sanitizing restrooms more frequently and restocking with supplies,

including soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

– Adding extra hand sanitizer at cashier stations, food service counters, and all Pharmacy, The Little Clinic and Starbucks locations.

– Wiping down shopping carts, baskets and equipment.

– Partnering with suppliers to replenish high-demand preparedness

products.

–Maintaining industry-leading best practices for safe food handling.

– Adjusting operating hours and senior and at-risk hours. Until further notice, operating hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. at Kroger stores and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Kroger fuel centers.

– Designating senior and at-risk hours. Kroger Mid-Atlantic stores are dedicating the first hour of operation on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to seniors (those over 60) and other at-risk customers. From 7-8 a.m., these customers can have first access to the store.

– Working to maintain shopping options and inventory of products in high-demand.

UPDATE 4/17/2020 1:06 P.M.

On Tuesday, April 21, Kroger Mid-Atlantic will begin accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for pickup. The low-contact, convenient service allows customers to shop online for groceries on Kroger.com or the Kroger app and pick up their order curbside at a nearby Kroger store.

EBT card customers can complete their transaction via a mobile point-of-sale system and pay for ineligible EBT purchases or any remaining balance with their debit or credit card.

“Kroger is rolling out a payment capability across our nearly 2,800 grocery stores to allow more customers to access fresh, affordable food and essentials through our Pickup service,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “We are committed to supporting all families as we work together with our associates and communities and government agencies and health organizations to flatten the curve during this unprecedented pandemic.”

“Kroger is excited to now have this SNAP/EBT payment option available for Pickup customers as we rapidly activate the feature in all our markets,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief technology and digital officer. “Through our ecommerce services, we remain committed to providing our customers with ways to save more time and maintain physical distancing.”

Kroger currently offers Pickup at more than 2,000 stores across America. Kroger has taken several steps to support its higher volume of Pickup orders, including hiring additional e-commerce associates, adding more order pick-up slots, increasing customer communication and piloting a pickup-only store location in Cincinnati.

Additionally, Kroger has waived the Pickup fee (generally $4.95) for all orders, with no minimum purchase threshold required, to encourage more customers to use the low-contact service during the pandemic.

How Pickup Works:

-Choose your preferred store location on Kroger.com or the Kroger app

-Shop and place your order for groceries on Kroger.com or the Kroger app

-Select a pickup date and time and SNAP/EBT as the payment method. If you’re using an EBT card, you’ll present your payment method at the time of pick up

-An associate shops for your order

-When it’s time to pick up your order, look for the pickup signs in the store’s parking lot and pull into your parking spot then call the number on the sign to let an associate know you’ve arrived

-An associate will bring your order out and load it into your car. At this time, EBT card customers can complete their transaction via a mobile point-of-sale system and pay for ineligible EBT purchases or any remaining balance with their debit or credit card

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