By Kathy A. Bolten | Senior Staff Writer and Kate Hayden | Staff Writer

Hy-Vee Inc., as a way to show appreciation to employees who frequently are within a foot or two of customers, is giving full- and part-time employees who work in its grocery stores 10% bonuses on hours worked from March 16 through April 12, the West Des Moines-based food chain announced.

The bonuses, to be paid out on April 17, are described as a $10 million commitment to workers.

Fareway, based in Boone, also announced this week that it would provide cash bonuses and additional time off to workers who have been on the front lines during recent weeks. The bonuses will be up to $1,200 per employee. About 8,500  employees will be eligible for the bonuses that will be distributed on April 3.

Hy-Vee and Fareway are among a growing number of grocers and other retailers taking steps to recognize employees who are on the front lines helping ensure their customers have access to food and other products needed during the pandemic.

In Iowa and other parts of the U.S., residents have either been ordered or strongly encouraged to stay in their homes as an effort to stem the spread of the highly contagious virus. The shelter-in-place recommendations have clogged grocery and other retail stores as customers get foods and other supplies to get them through the crisis.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. announced this week it that will provide $300 to full-time associates and $150 to part-time associates who worked at the chain in March. Jerry’s Enterprises Inc., which is based in Edina, Minn., and operates dozens of Cub Foods and Jerry’s Foods, is temporarily paying workers an extra $2 an hour and doubling its overtime rate. Target, Walmart and Amazon all have announced plans to either pay special bonuses or temporarily increase workers’ pay.

“Our employees are our most valuable asset, and we must do everything we can to support them and their families during this critical time,” Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman of the board, CEO and president, said in a prepared statement. “We hope these new benefits will help lighten the load for our employees who are working around-the-clock to serve our customers in our stores.”

Hy-Vee is also offering job-protected leave to workers who either test positive for the novel coronavirus or who are required by a health official to self-quarantine. The benefit provides job protection for a minimum of two weeks and applies to all employees. It is also offering workers access to telehealth services including mental health. Hy-Vee is waiving co-pays for its full-time employees and their dependents who use the 24-hour virtual medical service and is allowing part-time employees to use the service for a minimal fee per visit.

Hy-Vee has more than 80,000 employees who work in more than 265 stores in eight states including Iowa.