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Employers Offer Sandy-Affected Workers Hot Showers, Housing, Cash

Some companies even offered to share their office space, and employees of the New York-based website, Buzzfeed, shacked up with publishing company Hearst for a period.

With schools closed across New York and New Jersey, many companies also opened up their offices to gaggles of employee offspring. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey, the largest health insurance provider in the state, let children come in and amuse themselves in corners and conference rooms.

At CentraState, human resources staff volunteered to play babysitter. "My 3-year-old was with an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old," says Luterick. "As a parent, it was kind of cool."

Employee Giving

In addition to company assistance funds, numerous employers gave their staff a way to donate money to their colleagues in need. In times of crisis, Walmart invites its 2.1 million associates around the world to pitch in to its employee-giving program.

Any JetBlue "crew member," as the company refers to all of its employees, can donate to its crisis fund, and the company will match all gifts, dollar for dollar. CentraState allowed employees to donate their paid vacation days into a relief fund as cash.

Some stores didn't necessarily follow through on their good-will policies, though. Walmart representative Dianna Gee said it closed down 300 East Coast stores last Monday so that its associates could get safely home before Hurricane Sandy struck. But Kristine Bennett, a customer service representative at a Walmart in Capital Plaza, Md., claims that her store stayed open until midnight on Monday, through the height of the storm, as the rest of the mall went dead.

Regardless, 500 Walmart associates still staffed emergency hotlines at the store's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., according to Gee, to make sure that all 250,000 employees in the hurricane zone were accounted for. And all associates were paid for their scheduled hours, whether they could work or not. Several associates sustained property damage, and one lost her son. Walmart is "making sure they're being supported in every way possible," Gee said, although she wouldn't give specifics.

"The managers don't care about their associates," she said. "They just care about Walmart and Walmart's money."

But this wasn't the dominant sentiment in Sandy's wake. Adding together all the showers and subsidized meals, cash gifts and counseling, CentraState spokeswoman Abbie Luterick finds it hard to count how many employees have been helped.

"I think we were able to touch every employee in some way," she said.

Additional reporting by Dan Fastenberg and David Schep.

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