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Starbucks pledges $250K to COVID-19 Response Fund

Starbucks pledges $250K to COVID-19 Response FundProvided

Continuing to monitor the potential spread of the coronavirus, Starbucks has joined a coalition of philanthropy, government and business partners to create a COVID-19 Response Fund in Seattle. The fund, hosted by the Seattle Foundation, will deploy resources to help local organizations on the front lines of the outbreak who are helping the most vulnerable in the community, according to a company press release. 

More than $2.5 million has been committed to the fund, which will release grants on a rolling basis. The Starbucks Foundation has pledged $250,000, and Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Microsoft, United Way of King County, King County, City of Seattle are also partners.

"COVID-19 represents a battle on two fronts — a public health crisis and a threat to the economic stability of so many in our region," said Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres. “While we are all dealing with the effects of this outbreak, some of our neighbors face disproportionate challenges around time off work, the cost of care, and reliable access to information. Through this Fund and thanks to the generous support of our partners, we want to make sure everyone in our community has the support they need, regardless of race, place, income, or identity."

For the last few weeks, Starbucks has been preparing for the possible scenarios related to COVID-19 and ensuring the right plans and resources are in place, defined principally by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities, including increased cleaning and sanitizing for all company-operated stores to help prevent the spread of all germs.

In an open letter to its employees on March 4, Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president, U.S. company-operated business and Canada, outlined the precautionary steps it had taken to protect workers and customers. The company has:

  • Increased cleaning and sanitizing for all company-operated stores to help prevent the spread of all germs, adding paid time for employees supporting this work.
  • Pausing the use of personal cups and "for here"  ware in stores but will continue to honor the 10-cent discount for anyone who brings in a personal cup or asks for "for here" ware.
  • Provided scenario-based procedural information to store teams on how to report and support anyone that may show symptoms, including store closure decision making support
  • Restricted all business-related air travel, domestic and international through March 31
  • Have modified or postponed large meetings across our offices in the U.S. and Canada.

Two days later, Williams told employees in a March 6 letter, that the chain has learned that one of its store partners at its1st & University store in downtown Seattle was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was self-isolating at home for a period of time.

"We quickly activated our protocols, immediately closing the store and initiating a deep clean overnight, following all recommended guidelines from the City of Seattle and King County public health authorities," she wrote. "These officials have encouraged us to reopen the store after further preventative cleaning, which we have already conducted, staffed by partners who have no known impact from COVID-19. We look forward to welcoming our customers back very soon so we can continue to be their Third Place."

She also wrote that Starbucks would continue to follow the protocols and that the frequent, additional cleaning and sanitizing procedures underway were in line with the CDC's guidance.

"I know the situation with COVID-19 is evolving quickly, and we might hear about other impacted partners in our Starbucks community, here and around the country," she wrote. "When we do, we will quickly enact similar measures — closing the store, deep cleaning, and taking care of every partner.

Williams said the leadership team and working group were meeting regularly with experts to ensure they did what’s best for employees.

"In the meantime, we remain committed to honest conversation, taking care of one another, and making decisions with you in mind — always through the lens of Our Mission and Values," she said.

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