Hermitage grocery store owner would like to see extension to pandemic hazard pay

Coronavirus

Pennsylvania said businesses that helped sustain life during the coronavirus pandemic deserve hazard pay

HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – The COVID-19 hazard continues as more and more people get sick with it, but Pennsylvania’s program to pay extra to some workers during the hazard has now expired.

One Mercer County business would like to see an extension.

“A lot of people were appreciative of doctors and nurses but convenience stores and grocery stores, their employees were kind of forgotten,” said Al D’Onofrio, owner of D’Onofrio’s grocery store.

You may think of hazardous work as involving putting on a bright vest and operating heavy machinery, but Pennsylvania said businesses that helped sustain life during the coronavirus pandemic deserve hazard pay.

“This really helped them. This made them feel appreciated,” D’Onofrio said.

Local grocery stores are among the 11 Mercer County businesses that received hazard pay from Pennsylvania.

Statewide, it gave out $50 million to workers at health care, food manufacturing, grocery stores and social assistance businesses.

At D’Onofrio’s in Hermitage, employees received a $3 an hour pay increase for 10 weeks. Owner Al D’Onofrio said this allowed him to keep employees.

“It’s been scary at times but my employees have been great. They took pride in providing for the community,” he said.

The program expired on Oct. 24. Now, Gov. Tom Wolf is pushing lawmakers to extend and add $225 million of CARES Act funding.

D’Onofrio says he’d be happy to see that.

“We would absolutely apply for it, just to try and get the extra benefit wages for our employees,” he said.

In Mercer County, those 11 businesses got the help last time — 152 others applied, but didn’t.

Gov. Wolf hopes extending the program would help all of Pennsylvania’s essential workers.

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