J.C. Penney Co. announced it will extend the temporary closure of its stores and business offices due to the coronavirus.

As a result of its store closures, J.C. Penney said it would temporarily furlough the majority of store hourly associates, beginning April 2. During this time, the company will also require a smaller corporate workforce.

Beginning April 5, a significant portion of associates in the company’s home office, Salt Lake City, UT, and Soho design offices in New York City will be furloughed along with its store salaried employees. Many of the company’s employees in the supply chain and logistics centers were previously furloughed on March 20, and those furloughs will continue.

“These are difficult days all across the country and the globe. At J.C. Penney, we are making tough, prudent decisions to protect both the safety of our associates and the future of our Company,” said Jill Soltau, CEO of J.C. Penney. “We remain optimistic about J.C. Penney’s ability to weather this pandemic. We also believe these short-term solutions will have a long-term benefit for our associates, customers and key stakeholders as we look forward to the day that we reopen our doors.”

All furloughed employees who are currently enrolled in the J.C. Penney benefits program will continue to receive full health benefits and the company plans to cover 100 percent of employer-paid premiums for the duration of the furlough. Many impacted employees are also eligible to receive state unemployment benefits, which were recently increased with the passage of the federal stimulus bill.

“Our thoughts are with our valued associates and their families who are all being affected as we face this troubling time together. This is a true public health crisis, so we are maintaining health benefits and paying premiums for associates,” Soltau said. “We are in conversation with our associates and endeavoring to answer every one of their questions.”

J.C. Penney has taken several actions to improve its cash position and financial flexibility during the pandemic, including deferring capital spend, utilizing funds available under the revolving credit facility, pausing hiring, cutting spending, reducing receipts, and extending the terms for payment of goods and services. The company has also suspended 2020 merit increases and is evaluating other financial options.

The company’s e-commerce distribution centers and customer care centers will remain open fulfilling online orders and answering customer inquiries. The centers will continue to operate by following enhanced social distancing, best practices for sanitization and other safety measures. Its international operations continue while complying with government mandates.

Photo courtesy J.C. Penney