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Minnesota and Vermont declared some food workers "essential personnel," giving them access to child care during working hours.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz this week classified the state’s grocery employees as emergency workers during the Covid-19 outbreak, making them eligible for free child care while they continue to report to work during widespread quarantine.
The move is part of a larger executive order that closed the state’s schools to the public but requires them to “provide care to, at a minimum, district-enrolled students aged 12 and under who are children of emergency workers.”
Walz further clarified that order on Monday, prioritizing covered emergency personnel into tiers. “Food distribution workers” are classified as tier 2 employees and include drivers, order selectors, forklift loaders, IT personnel, mechanics, sanitation workers, store clerks, stockers, food preparation personnel, cleaning staff and deli and produce workers.
School districts are required to “make every effort to provide care for school-age children” of tier 2 employees, according to the order. Schools must “practice hygiene and social distancing best practice” in providing that care, and are encouraged to “also provide extended care—before and after school hours—to students who are children of emergency workers.”
The Minnesota Grocers Association praised the move, saying on Twitter that it would allow “frontline workers childcare as they serve and feed Minnesotans.” The state trade association had previously reassured shoppers that the grocery industry would stay “open for business,” thanks largely to store employees “working double-time on the front lines and behind the scenes to meet customers’ needs.”
Vermont made a similar move on Wednesday, according to VTDigger.org. Michael Schirling, the state’s public safety commissioner, told reporters that his department was identifying employees who should be considered essential, making them eligible for state-sponsored services, including child care. Grocery store workers and others employed in the food supply industry are included along with law enforcement officers, utility employees and health care professionals.
As of Thursday afternoon, other states had yet to follow suit, though several, including Pennsylvania, had designated grocery stores as essential businesses that were required to remain open—and staffed—during the pandemic.
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Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.