How Walmart is Supporting Associates Impacted by Hurricane Irma

By E. Blake Jackson
September 10, 2017
Associates working together in the Bentonville, Arkansas, Emergency Operations Center

Hurricane Irma hit the Walmart family hard.

For Cassie Bell and the associate support team in Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center, the priority this weekend and in the days to come is making sure associates are safe and that their immediate needs are being met.

Continuing an effort that began in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last month, Walmart has mobilized its Associate Resource Call Center to check in on associates in impacted areas, help get them to safety and give them the support information they need. To date, volunteers at the call center have conducted more than 5,200 calls and spoken with thousands of associates on the ground in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

“Communication is critical during these events,” said Bell, Sr. Human Resources Manager. “We’re staying in contact with our store and club management teams, distribution centers and call centers, reminding them of emergency procedures and what to do during and after the storm.”

Walmart has mobilized a special call center focused on associate needs. Above, volunteers take calls from associates in hurricane affected areas.

But associate support doesn’t end with communication. Bell outlined a number of additional measures Walmart is taking to help associates who live and work in Irma’s path:

  • Walmart is offering Disaster Displacement Assistance (DDA), a grant that helps pay personal, family and living expenses resulting from a disaster. DDA helps get associates and their families out of harm’s way before the storm hits. It also helps them get back home once they are allowed to return.
  • Associates whose stores are forced to close outside their normal operating schedule due to the disaster or mandatory evacuation ordered by a governmental authority are eligible for up to four days of disaster support pay.
  • Using new technology the company recently implemented in its compensation department, Walmart is providing near-instant access to earned wages as an extra effort of relief. This program allows eligible associates to receive earned pay prior to their actual payday, giving them additional resources as they prepare for, and recover from, the storm.
  • Walmart is setting up support centers inside Training Academy facilities near impacted areas, providing hot meals to families and proactively calling associates to conduct wellness checks.
  • Associates wanting to work in other facilities are able to find openings by reaching out to their Human Resources Manager. Post-storm, Walmart will be identifying additional opportunities for associates to work in another store if theirs is closed due to the storm.

To help ease the minds of impacted associates who are worried about how they’re going to get back to work, Bell said absences for eligible associates have been approved throughout the storm and recovery.

“Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of our associates — taking care of them and their families,” Bell said. “We are working hard to re-open stores as soon as it is safe to do so, and we want to help associates get back to work as soon as they are ready.”