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Fewer than half of Arkansas households have responded to the 2020 census, providing necessary information to the U.S. Census Bureau that will lead to millions of dollars coming to the state over the next decade.

Tyson Foods announced $500 “thank you” bonuses for its 116,000 front-line workers, and the food company’s announcement came on the heels of recent announcements of bonuses being paid by J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Walmart. All three companies connected the bonuses and other steps being taken to support their workers to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our team members are leading the charge to continue providing food to the nation,” said Tyson Foods CEO Noel White. “The bonuses are another way we can say ‘thank you’ for their efforts.”

 The J.B. Hunt bonuses of $500 were paid March 27 to drivers and employees at field operations and customer facilities supporting the drivers.

“All of our employees have gone above and beyond the call to action during this crisis,” said John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt. “And nearly all of our field-level, front-line employees and certainly all of our drivers are required in person and have upheld the high standards of our company. They have kept pace with the evolving supply chain needs of our customers in the face of great uncertainty.

“These bonuses serve as a token of our appreciation for their service and hard work during these unprecedented times.”

Walmart was one of the first companies in the region to take big steps to support front-line workers who are busier than ever ringing up customers’ groceries, stocking store shelves and moving freight at the company’s distribution centers.

The company announced $300 to full-time, hourly employees and $150 to part-time hourly workers. The payment, which will be paid to shared with employees on April 2, will cost the company about $365 million.

“Walmart associates have gone above and beyond the call of duty in serving our customers during these unprecedented times,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and CEO. “We want to reward our associates for their hard work and recognize them for the work that is in front of us.”

The companies are taking other steps to help their employees.

Walmart plans to pay first-quarter bonuses to store, club and supply chain employees sooner than usual and as if first-quarter goals were achieved. Those payments, adding up to about $180 million, will be made in late April rather than late May.

To help its workers, Tyson Foods, which has mandatory health care coverage, is waiving the five consecutive day waiting period for short-term disability benefits. That means workers can receive pay while they’re sick with the flu or COVID-19.

Tyson Foods is also waiving the co-pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing, and it’s eliminating pre-approval or preauthorization steps. The company is waiving co-pay requirements for the use of telemedicine and relaxing refill limits for 30-day prescriptions of maintenance medication.

Other Northwest Arkansas companies are taking their own actions to support front-line workers, including Springdale-based poultry producer George’s Inc. The company started paying an extra $2 an hour to essential workers on March 15 and that continues through April 25. It includes employees who work in production plants, feed mills, hatcheries and other employees who must go to work at company facilities.

“The work our team members do every day is critical to feeding the country and ensuring we do our part to keep the food supply chain strong,” said Carl George, one of the company’s co-CEOs. “While a few of our professional staff are able to telecommute and help ‘flatten the curve,’ most of what we do as an organization requires team members to be on-site.”

Has your company provided a financial bonus or other job-related benefits to help workers as Northwest Arkansas faces COVID-19? Send us a note. We’d love to hear about it.

Photos provided by Tyson Foods.

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