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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Kroger Gives Bonuses But Still Ends Hourly Pay Bump

Al Behrman

Kroger ended the so-called "hero pay" to workers as scheduled this weekend, but has now decided to give them a one-time bonus for working during the pandemic.

The Cincinnati-based company, the largest grocery chain in the country, will pay full-time workers $400 and part-time workers $200 in two installments on May 30 and June 18.

"Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May."  

While the union and employees are pleased about the bonus, they aren't thrilled the hero pay is ending.

Debbie Griffin, a Lawrenceburg, Indiana, employee who has worked for Kroger for 41 years says she is putting her life on the line and gives this example.

"She's in my line, she's coughing, and I start to back up and she says, 'Oh, don't worry it's just a smoker's cough,' and I'm thinking, I don't know if it's a smoker's cough or not. Why are you in here?"

In an interview Friday afternoon, Kroger Vice President Keith Dailey says, "It really follows from how we've tried to orient ourselves throughout this entire pandemic as a company and a leadership team which is to always try to find the right balance between our most urgent priority, which is to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers with our social obligation."

Just recently, United Food and Commercial Workers Regional President Kevin Garvey asked Kroger to extend the $2 an hour pay bump.

Garvey says the money is a nice gesture for his members but the ending of the t$2 an hour hero pay is a little disappointing. He says COVID-19 is not going away in the near future.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.