Acton Institute Powerblog

10 ways businesses are helping you during coronavirus

As the combination of isolation and bad news about the coronavirus pandemic depresses Americans, it is vital to look for the silver lining. The good news is that businesses from coast to coast and around the world are performing good deeds, whether civic-minded or profit-driven, that are making people’s lives better.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Apple donates 10 million face masks to healthcare facilities. Last Saturday, Apple pledged to donate two million facemasks to healthcare workers. Vice President Mike Pence announced on Tuesday that “Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile.” One day later, that figure had increased to 10 million. That’s roughly one-quarter of the total number of masks the government’s Strategic National Stockpile held at the beginning of the month. Apple pledged to donate “millions” more to Europe. “To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you,” CEO Tim Cook tweeted.

2. Food Lion serves 6 million meals to children, the elderly, and the poor. The grocer will donate half-a-million dollars to charities that feed the needy in their own communities, especially for meal delivery to the elderly and schoolchildren. Another $100,000 will go to the food banks of Feeding America. “Nourishing our neighbors is core to everything we do, and we know that many of our neighbors have been tremendously impacted by the recent school and business closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Food Lion President Meg Ham on Tuesday.

3. Landlords waive rent for one, two, or three months. The owners of five restaurants in Jonesboro, Arkansas, got good news last Tuesday when the building’s owner told them not to pay rent next month. “We ask that you use this money instead to pay your employees and take care of your family,” the company, Young Investment Company, LLC, wrote on Facebook. The grateful owner of one of the restaurants said “that money goes straight to the employees.” Not to be outdone, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert announced that some of tenants of his Detroit-area facility will pay no rent for April, May, and—for the smallest establishments—June. “We are happy to do our part to help our portfolio’s most vulnerable businesses weather the storm,” said Matt Cullen, the CEO of Bedrock, Gilbert’s real estate firm.

4. Giant Eagle pays employees $10 million in bonuses. The Pittsburgh-based chain said employees of its pharmacies, convenience stores, and supermarkets will receive the bonus pay retroactively from March 15 until at least May 2. “Across all our communities every day, they are working tirelessly to keep families safe, healthy and fed. We cannot thank them enough. They are our heroes,” said Laura Shapira Karet, its president and CEO.

5. Kroger places largest-ever pizza order to feed 12,000 employees. On Saturday, Kroger ordered enough food from Ohio-based Donatos Pizza to feed all 12,000 employees at Kroger’s 68 stores in central Ohio. The Midwestern grocery chain also announced a one-time “appreciation bonus” to its employees of $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-time workers.

6. 3M doubles production of face masks. 3M announced last week that it is producing 1.1 billion respiratory face masks a year worldwide, 400 million in the U.S. That’s almost twice its previous production rate, and the company plans to expand its U.S. production by 30 percent this year. “We are mobilizing all available resources and rapidly increasing output of critical supplies healthcare workers in the United States and around the world need to help protect their lives as they treat others,” said 3M CEO Mike Roman. 3M has also shipped half-a-million N95 masks to the American communities hardest hit by COVID-19, New York and Seattle, at no cost.

7. Honeywell hires 500 Americans to make N95 face masks. Honeywell is tooling up a plant in Rhode Island to produce the greatly needed N95 masks, which strain out 95 percent of air particles. “Our Rhode Island facility already produces industry-leading safety gear and soon will play a critical role in supplying the Strategic National Stockpile with N95 masks,” said Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk. The Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that it had only one percent of the masks it would need in a pandemic: It had 12 million N95 masks but would need up to 3.5 billion a year.

8. Ford produces protective face masks. The auto giant announced that it will produce N95 masks and a line of protective face shields in a new partnership with 3M and GE Healthcare. One of its production facilities will make 100,000 plastic face shields a week. Detroit-area healthcare providers began testing the transparent shields, which add an additional protective layer by being worn over the N95 mask, this week.

9. Distilleries start making hand sanitizer. Just as Ford is changing its business plan in response to COVID-19, many of the nation’s alcohol producers have switched from producing booze to making hand sanitizer. A dozen members of the Massachusetts Distillers Alliance have begun producing the germ-killing solution, which is virtually impossible to find on store shelves. Others have followed suit from California, to Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky—even the UK. Some, like San Antonio’s Ranger Creek Brewing and Distillery, make these as an act of charity. Others, like Short Path Distillery, produce the sanitizer for sale in the consumer market. “We have people that are already placing orders to fill holes at grocery stores and chains, and even government bodies that need it,” said Eric Falberg of 28 Mile Vodka and Distillery in Illinois. “And obviously, for all of our local first responders, we’re going to be donating.”

10. Essential businesses hire hundreds of thousands of employees. State orders limiting or all-but shutting down economic activity have caused unemployment to increase 17-fold nationwide. However, some of America’s largest retailers have launched a hiring spree. Walmart wants to hire 150,000 associates; Amazon plans to hire 100,000 people. CVS will hire 50,000 employees, as will Dollar General, nearly doubling its normal hiring pace. The positions, many of which will be temporary, are not charity but a response to increased demand. It is not out of their benevolence, but their self-interest, that their workers will earn their dinner.

Some of these are motivated purely by charity. Others aim at making a profit in a tight economy. But every one of them, irrespective of its profitability, serves the people in their local community—and, if they flatten the curve of transmission, the whole world.

This refutes the view of those who believe, in the words of First Things, that “free-market capitalism had brought about the mistreatment of the poor … and the exclusion of Christian moral principles from the marketplace, which rapidly led to their exclusion everywhere else.”

These entrepreneurs have responded to the coronavirus by turning business into a way of loving their neighbors.

(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Alexandria Lee.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.