I want to update you on a few items relating to the ongoing pandemic and its impact on Forward.
• Many employees inquired about a letter they can use if stopped by law enforcement and questioned as to why they are traveling during the executive order. Letters were drafted for our convenience, Subway, Forward Energy, and home office employees that can be presented if the need arises. These letters started going out today, and if you did not receive a copy please speak with your immediate supervisor.
• We continue to evaluate business daily and adjust operations as necessary. Today we closed an additional 10 Subway locations where sales levels dropped to the point where those restaurants could no longer stay open. The employees at these units will be laid off and join many others whom our hearts go out to that have been impacted. In addition, our convenience store team met this morning and discussed hours of operation reductions per location, and you can expect an announcement will be made soon. These changes are not drastic and mostly represent slightly earlier close times, but changes can happen quickly as we stay focused on staying agile as a company.
• Our managers across the company have spoken to many employees who were laid off and the consensus seems to be that all were able to successfully apply for unemployment benefits, though after moderate delays. We are hearing that it may be best to file online after regular business hours, perhaps even late at night or very early morning. This is not ideal, but the state is inundated with an extraordinary number of claims.
• To put these times into perspective: 108,710 Michigan residents filed for unemployment the week of March 16 compared to a normal of 5,000. That represents a 2,100 percent increase and I suspect this week those numbers will be even higher with the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order going into effect. Nationally unemployment numbers swelled to a record 3.28 million people, up from just 281,000 the week before. Suffice it to say, nothing quite like this has ever happened before in such a short period of time.
• To end on a positive note, though, yesterday the Senate unanimously approved a historic $2 trillion stimulus package and the bill is expected to go before the House tomorrow morning. The president has indicated he will sign it, executing the largest emergency aid package in US history. Under the plan, many Americans will receive direct relief payments, unemployment benefits are expanded, and aid is in place for businesses small and large. It is much needed and will hopefully lessen some of the strain that both employees and employers are feeling during these unprecedented times.
We will continue to communicate regularly with any pertinent updates, but in the meantime please stay healthy, stay safe, and take care of yourself and your family.
President, Forward Corp.