Shoppers seeking to stock up on supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak line up outside a grocery store in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. It’s a scene playing out around the country, including in Maine. Credit: Melinda Deslatte | AP

As of 11 a.m. Friday, March 20, 44 Maine residents have been confirmed positive and 12 others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

There’s a silver lining to the long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores: supermarkets desperately need workers immediately to stock goods, drive trucks and select orders in their stores and warehouses.

Maine’s two largest grocery chains, Hannaford and Shaw’s, each plan to hire hundreds of people as soon as they can get them, providing some relief for the pandemic job insecurity in Maine.

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And Walmart, which has large sections of its stores devoted to groceries, said Thursday evening that it plans to hire 150,000 people to work in all aspects of its stores nationwide, many of whom it expects will eventually become permanent workers. It is cutting the normal two-week hiring cycle to 24 hours, Walmart U.S. CEO and President John Furner wrote in a blog to employees.

It’s a story playing out across the country. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 workers, mostly for fulfillment and delivery jobs. Grocery store chains Albertsons and Safeway are seeking more than 2,000 store and online workers in Washington state, according to GroceryDive.com. Michigan-based SpartanNash is holding job fairs and hiring on the spot, while Chicago-based Jewel-Osco is advertising immediate openings for delivery drivers on social media.

Walmart did not break down its grocery jobs nor positions in Maine, where it has more than 6,800 employees at 25 stores, including three Sam’s Clubs. The average wage is $14.47 per hour, according to Walmart’s website.

Shaw’s is looking for workers to staff its deli, food service, meat/seafood, bakery, produce, grocery and customer service departments.

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“There are more than 1,000 immediate openings at stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont,” said Shaw’s spokesperson Teresa Edington.

She did not break out the number of positions open in Maine or neighboring New Hampshire. As of Thursday, its career website listed 168 jobs in Maine, including grocery drivers and order selectors for the warehouse.

The supermarket chain has 154 stores in New England and 21 in Maine, plus a distribution center in Wells, which also is seeking workers.

Benefits include paid training, flexible scheduling and employee discounts, Edington said. Shaw’s is taking applications online, in stores and at the distribution center.

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Hannaford is hiring full- and part-time associates at most of its 182 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, said spokesperson Ericka Dodge. It has 63 stores in Maine and distribution centers in South Portland and Winthrop.

A search of the Hannaford jobs website on Thursday returned 227 open part-time and full-time positions in Maine in all parts of the store, from deli sales associate to customer service leader.

Dodge said the hiring situation is dynamic and hesitated to give a firm number of openings.

“It will be substantial. The website does not fully capture our needs,” she said. “Interested applicants should check with their local Hannaford for information about openings in their local area.”

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Dodge said Hannaford has had to temporarily stop its Hannaford To Go online shopping service because the stores are so busy.

“We have done so to redirect those associates to restocking store shelves as quickly as possible for all customers,” she said.

Dodge said Hannaford is working with its suppliers and looking for new ones to try to keep up with high-demand item purchases, like hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

“The food supply chain in the United States is healthy so this is not a supply issue,” Dodge said. “The challenge is getting product delivered and on store shelves at a speed that matches this extraordinary demand. We encourage customers to purchase what they need and leave some for others.”

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Because the coronavirus is spreading, with 4 4 Maine residents having been confirmed positive and 12 others are presumed positive as of 11 a.m. Friday, some stores are adding special early morning shopping times for seniors and shortening hours so they have time to clean.

Hannaford, for example, said Thursday it has opened shopping hours to customers 60 and older from 6 a.m to 7 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday. Those customers are more susceptible to become seriously ill if they catch the virus.

The supermarket chain also is reducing its hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with some stores closing at 8 p.m. to have enough time to clean and restock shelves.

Shaw’s is keeping its online home delivery service going, said Edington. It also has changed store hours from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, seniors and other high-risk customers can shop from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

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Walmart also is offering perks to workers, Furner said. Hourly associates in its stores, supply chain and corporate offices will receive a special bonus: $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time, to be paid out April 2. All hourly associates employed as of March 1 and still employed as of March 24 will qualify.

It also plans to give its quarterly bonus for hourly workers a month early, in April.

“We know this is a difficult time when many people could use more cash, and we want to support you how we can,” Furner wrote.

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