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  • In a letter to employees obtained by Business Insider, Hobby Lobby wrote that it is “pleased to begin reopening stores as permitted by state and local authorities” and is bringing “portion of furloughed employees” back to work. 
  • “As the country begins to recover from the pandemic, we are pleased that we are slowly able to begin reopening stores as permitted by state and local authorities. We are confident we can operate these stores in a responsible manner,” the memo reads. 
  • The letter did not indicate which locations would reopen or how employees would be selected to return from furlough. However, several stores have already reopened in South Carolina, which along with Georgia, became one of the first states to reopen its economy on Friday.
  • According to an employee in nearby North Carolina, which is still under a stay-at-home mandate through April 7, local officials intervened to shut down a store earlier this week. Meanwhile, five locations are still operating in the state against the governor’s orders. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hobby Lobby is once again finagling a way to reopen to the public, as the craft store company claims the country is beginning to “recover from the pandemic.”

In a letter sent to employees on Thursday, Hobby Lobby executives wrote it is “pleased to begin reopening stores as permitted by state and local authorities.” The company also stated in the letter, which was obtained by Business Insider, th it will begin to bring a “portion of furloughed employees” back into work.

“As stores reopen, we do not expect business to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time,” the letter, signed by Hobby Lobby Corporate, reads. “As a result, only a portion of furloughed employees will be recalled in the near term as business resumes. Employees with questions about recall from furlough should contact their manager.”

The letter comes just two days after local officials intervened to close at least one store that was recently reopened in North Carolina according to one employee, an act that was in defiance of stay-at-home mandates effective in the state through April 7. Even so, at least five stores remain open in the state — in the cities of Statesville, Hickory, Greenville, Jacksonville, and Rocky Mount — while in neighboring South Carolina nearly all locations are up and running after officials relaxed social distancing policies this week.

The employee in North Carolina, who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that her colleagues had been afraid to report the store reopening. The letter gave no direct indication of which states would begin opening stores. 

Georgia and Florida also reopened public establishments on Friday, to the dismay of some public health officials. However, stores in Georgia and Florida appear to remain temporarily closed as of Friday, according to Google.

Hobby Lobby also did not disclose in the letter how employees would be selected to return to work, though directed individuals with questions to contact their managers. An employee in Florida told Business Insider on Thursday he is waiting to hear from his boss about whether or not he will be called back from furlough, but he said it will likely be a “skeleton crew.”

Echoing a separate memo sent to employees on April 15 by CEO David Green, Thursday’s letter states that Hobby Lobby is “confident” it will be able to create a safe environment upon reopening, following several complaints from employees previously that they felt endangered on the job. Among them include “enforcing employees to wear facial covers,” an act that employees were discouraged from doing before the closures, according to a staffer speaking to Business Insider for a previous story. 

For those that are not called back into stores, the furlough will be extended through May 30, according to the letter. During this time, Hobby Lobby will continue to cover benefits for full-time employees. 

Hobby Lobby did not respond to Business Insider’s request to comment on this story. 

Read the full memo, below:

April 23, 2020

Dear Hobby Lobby Employees:

This is an update regarding Hobby Lobby’s management of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus. 

As the country begins to recover from the pandemic, we are please that we are slowly able to begin reopening stores as permitted by state and local authorities. We are confident we can operate these stores in a responsible manner by maintaining best practices to provide a safer working environment for our employees and safer shopping environment for our customers, including placing physical barriers between customers and cashiers at the registers, restricting the use of adjacent registers, conducting enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, providing sanitizing products for employee and customer use, requiring employees to wear face coverings, and enforcing social distancing measures. 

As stores reopen, we do not expect business to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time. As a result, only a portion of furloughed employees will be recalled in the near term as business resumes. Employees with questions about recall from furlough should contact their manager. 

In the meantime, the company will continue to maintain medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits for eligible employees while furloughed for at least an additional month through May 30, 2020, and will continue paying the cost of employee premiums for these benefits on behalf of eligible employees while furloughed without pay. Additionally, for furloughed employees who are recalled to work, but have less than 70 hours paid on a paycheck, the company will continue paying the cost of employee premiums for these benefits on behalf of eligible employees through at least May 30, 2020. Finally, for any furloughed employees who received a paycheck on April 17th or after, with less than 70 hours paid and with benefits premiums withheld, the company will credit the benefits premiums withheld from those paychecks on a future paycheck. We will re-evaluate the situation in late May, and will provide an update to everyone before May 30th. 

Sincerely, 

Hobby Lobby Corporate

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