Starbucks Pledges Free Coffees to 'Front-Line Responders' Helping In Coronavirus Outbreak

Starbucks will fuel those braving the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it will offer free coffee to customers who identify themselves as “front-line responders to the COVID-19 outbreak.” Now through May 3, these essential workers helping during the health crisis will receive a 12-ounce brewed coffee, hot or iced, at not cost.

In addition to the free drinks, the Starbucks Foundation will also donate $500,000 split evenly between two organizations aiming to help the health care industry: Operation Gratitude and Direct Relief.

In an open letter on Sunday, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said he is “inspired” by the coffee chain’s employees who are “rising to the occasion” to support those working to mitigate the outbreak.

“They demonstrate our resilience and our commitment to the communities we serve,” Johnson wrote. “… I am optimistic that together we can overcome this challenge.”

He added: “The human experience is about overcoming adversity by being resilient, and that is certainly on display across the nation. We will overcome this. Our resilience will be rewarded.”

Starbucks has taken several precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a few commitments to its employees.

Over the weekend, Johnson announced that the company will continue to pay all partners for the next 30 days regardless of whether they come into work or their stores stay open, a representative for Starbucks confirmed to PEOPLE.

Johnson explained that he wants his company to lead by example during this time and doesn’t want employees to have to choose between work and health.

“I believe it is the responsibility of every business to care for its employees during this time of uncertainty, shared sacrifice, and common cause,” he added. “I hope to see many business leaders across this country doing all they can to retain jobs, pay employees, continue benefits, and demonstrate compassion as they make critical decisions. Not every decision is a financial one.”

To help prevent rapid spread of the virus, Starbucks also transitioned to drive-thru only service, and temporarily halted the use of reusable cups for refills.

Some chains like 7-Eleven and Domino’s are looking to hire tens of thousands of additional workers to meet rising demands across the United States, while grocery stores like Trader Joe’s are setting up “special bonus pools” and paying their workers — who have been deemed “essential” — extra based on their hours worked during the recent sales period.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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