How Walmart Plans to Help Small Businesses Facing Hardship During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As thousands of small businesses continue to be hammered by the economic fallout from the coronavirus, Walmart has extended a hand to its partners in an effort to keep them alive in unprecedented times.

The big-box retailer announced today a rent-relief program for the small businesses that operate inside its Supercenters as well as Sam’s Club stores across the country. As part of the initiative, Walmart is waiving rent for all its property partners and the hundreds of eye doctors who conduct business at Sam’s Clubs for the month of April.

“This is a trying time for many of these establishments — just as it is for so many other businesses across America,” the company wrote in a statement, signed by Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner and Sam’s Club president and CEO Kath McLay. “It’s our hope that this rent relief will help these businesses financially weather the current situation and take care of their employees.”

Walmart has more than 10,000 leased spaces throughout the country. The businesses, which span hair and nail salons, optometrists, veterinary clinics and restaurant franchises as well as local and regional banks, have either been forced to temporarily close or significantly reduce operating hours and services within the past couple weeks amid the spread of COVID-19, which has now surpassed 60,000 cases in the United States.

What’s more, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company has announced changes to its supply chain financing program, which allows qualified Walmart and Sam’s Club suppliers to receive their payments faster from national banks. It has introduced new resources that would speed up the onboarding process by eliminating an eligibility requirement and adding JPMorgan Chase as a bank partner, in addition to existing partners Citibank and Wells Fargo. More than two-thirds of Walmart’s 18,000 suppliers are small- and medium-size businesses.

“This is also a difficult time for some of our suppliers: the companies who produce the products we sell on our shelves and websites,” the retailer added. “Capital is increasingly maxed [out] for some suppliers as their business models change and shift.”

Last week, Walmart shared plans to hire 150,000 new associates for its stores as well as distribution and fulfillment centers through the end of May as it faces increasing pressure to provide essential goods to its coronavirus-panicked shoppers. In today’s memo, the company said it was working with its small business partners to encourage their affected employees to apply for these temporary jobs.

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