At least two chain businesses have given their workers temporary pay increases in recognition for long and stressful hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Convenience & grocery stores are considered essential and permitted to remain open, under Governor Phil Murphy's "Stay at Home" executive order March 21 that closes all non-essential businesses.

Those employees have been on the "front lines" of panic shopping created by the globally spread virus, including dealing with angry customers when popular items may be out of stock.

"I am extremely grateful for the vital role our associates are playing to serve our communities when they need it most," Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens said in a written statement. In an effort to "properly support and recognize" their work, Gheysens said every hourly employee would receive a temporary wage increase.

He did not reveal the amount of the increase but an employee at a Wawa store told a New Jersey 101.5 reporter while checking out he received a $3 per hour increase.

Gheysens said any employee personally affected by COVID-19 also has 14 extra days of paid time off which can be used for self-care or to attend to a family member who is impacted.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International union announced a 10% raise for its members at Stop & Shop locations around the state, plus two additional paid weeks off if they become sick.

"Every supermarket, grocery store, and food retail employer – union and non-union – in the Northeast and across America must follow the example that Stop & Shop has set and follow their lead,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

Walmart and Target, which also sell groceries in some of their New Jersey stores, also each announced plans to increase wages and offer bonuses to its staff across the country.

Walmart said it would pay a special $300 cash bonus for its hourly, full time workers and $150 for part time workers. The next quarterly bonus for store, club and supply chain associates will pay out a month earlier at the end of April The company will also hire 150,000 new workers through the end of May and will streamline its hiring process.

Target workers are getting a $2 per hour raise thorough May 2 and bonuses are being provided to 20,000 hourly store team leads who manage individual departments in Target stores across the country. An additional $1,000,000 also has been donated to the Target Team Member Giving Fund, to assist employees who are most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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