Walmart (WMT), the nation’s largest private employer, plans to hire 150,000 hourly associates in the U.S. and announced $550 million in cash bonuses to reward workers amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that’s wreaked havoc on the economy resulting in job losses.
“Not only are we not laying off people, but we are in a position where we are also going to be hiring an additional 150,000 new associates,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, said on a call with reporters, touting that the big-box retailer has streamlined its process to do one-day hiring “within hours.”
He added that the company is reaching out to folks in the restaurant association and hospitality industry to provide jobs, many of which he notes will be temporary but they may “morph into full-time jobs.”
“With the demands we are facing, both in our [distribution centers] and fulfillment centers and in stores, here’s an opportunity where we can search capacity, provide jobs to people who may be hurting. So, we see that as a two-for-one — it helps us meet the demands we are seeing within Walmart, but it also, hopefully, contributes to easing the pain of this broader economic downturn that the coronavirus has caused.”
The 150,000 people hiring spree will take place now through the end of May across Walmart’s stores, clubs, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers.
‘We are an essential service’
As businesses close and people stay home, Walmart has come under “an extreme amount of stress” as worried shoppers pick up supplies from paper products and cleaning supplies to pantry goods.
“We are in a situation where we are an essential service for our communities even when there are lockdowns. So, the fact that our associates are leaning into this challenge and doing what they are doing to serve customers in their hour of need has been quite extraordinary to say the least,” Bartlett added.
Walmart, which currently employs 1.4 million associates in the U.S., also announced it will pay out a total of $550 million in cash bonuses, including a special one-time bonus for its associates to reward their “hard work and dedication” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We felt like this was a moment in which they needed to be provided some extra bonus pay for the work they’re doing,” Bartlett said.
As part of that reward, the company will pay full-time hourly associates $300, while a part-time associate will get $150, for a total of $365 million across the workforce. All associates employed as of March 1 will be eligible for the special one-time bonus, which will be paid April.
Bartlett pointed out that the “enormous spending spree” by Americans right now isn’t because they have extra money to spend. What’s happening is they’re facing pressures and regular financial demands. The associates are also feeling the same pressures.
“For our own associates, we felt like there are things we could do to help them in this hour as they are helping customers. They’re humans too. They’re in the same predicament all Americans are in, so we wanted to do our part for them,” Bartlett added.
The company will also pay out its regular quarterly cash bonus a month early, viewing it as a “solid opportunity to provide them some extra cash.” That payout will be a total $180 million.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.