State governments in Vermont and Minnesota have moved to classify grocery store employees as emergency workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. The measures allow workers access to expanded benefits, including priority for child care benefits as they work overtime to keep shelves stocked.
As Mother Jones reported, many states and cities have moved to provide child care for emergency workers like nurses and paramedics who are working often long hours to confront the outbreak. Now, Minnesota and Vermont have decided to add grocery store employees to the designation of emergency worker, acknowledging that they are serving a critical function for a country that is stocking up and locking down.
In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz issued an order that closed all schools and provided child care for emergency personnel “critical to the response of COVID-19,” Mother Jones noted. In the order, grocery store employees were listed as “essential tier 2 workers,” and school districts were ordered to make every effort they could to provide care for children. As the report noted, the people caring for children were also classified as emergency personnel.
As CNN noted, the move earned praise from the Minnesota Grocers Association.
“.@GovTimWalz has classified ‘food distribution workers,’ which is store clerks, stockers, etc, as Tier 2 emergency works. This allows frontline workers childcare as they serve and feed Minnesotans. Thank you @GovTimWalz for supporting our industry during this challenging time!” the organization tweeted.
Vermont was also working on a plan to use state funds to reimburse private child care centers that provide care to essential workers.
The move comes as grocery stores across the country have had a rush of people stocking up on essential items and preparing for a long self-isolation in their homes. A number of states have closed all but essential businesses and advised people to remain in their homes, while some places like California have issued shelter-in-place orders, telling residents to remain in their homes outside of a few exceptions like shopping for food or picking up medicine.
Grocery stores across the country have also taken measures to ensure that proper supplies are available to people impacted by the virus, including the most vulnerable. Many have instituted special shopping hours for the elderly, allowing them to avoid the rush of people that can make for more difficult and dangerous shopping. Experts recommend that in order to prevent transmission of the virus, people keep a distance of six feet from each other at all times.