As Puerto Ricans grapple with the loss of family, home, work, and access to basic needs (food, clean water, and utilities) in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Panda Express is offering a lifeline to its employees on the island.
In addition to sending aid to its workers in Puerto Rico, Panda Express is also offering relocation assistance to employees affected by the hurricane. “As soon as the airport opens, we will relocate interested associates, including hourly team members, to the States and help them get on their feet again,” a company representative wrote in an email.
The California-based chain, with the support of its founders, is offering cash, satellite phones, and supplies including first aid, water filters, flashlights, and batteries to workers without access to funds, and “paying associates for hours they would have worked and in advance of payroll.”
As soon as the 185 mph winds died down, Julia Lee, a regional director of operations for Panda Express, and human resources manager Andres Ortiz located a small plane to fly them from Florida to Puerto Rico. Panda Express operates 20 stores across the island, but according to the company only three will be able to reopen as of Saturday, October 7. Around 250 employees have been without jobs for the past three weeks, and many have lost all of their possessions in the storm.
Meanwhile, Starbucks sent aid to its 462-person team on the island and donated $250,000 to relief efforts, while Puerto Rican chef Jose Enrique has teamed up with DC-based chef-cum-superhero José Andrés to feed thousands of Puerto Ricans affected by the hurricane. Yesterday alone he fed more than 30,000 people.
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