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The Hobby Lobby corporation notified employees Friday that all 900 stores are closed “until further notice” and “a large portion of corporate and distribution employees” would be furloughed.

Approximately 4,000 from the Oklahoma City metro area work at the sprawling headquarters, warehouse, and distribution campus near S.W. 44th and S. Council Road in the Oklahoma City limits. It is not yet known the exact number from that campus that will be furloughed.

The company website reports over 43,000 employees worldwide.

Founder David Green’s family is listed by Forbes as the 70th richest in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion.

Turn to government

The company memo, posted on the company’s website, cited “efforts to manage and mitigate the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus” as the reason for the drastic move.

The memo also gave notice that they are “ending emergency leave pay and suspending use of Company provided paid time off benefits (PPTO and Vacation) in accordance with the requirements outlined in the CARES Act (subject to State law requirements).”

As the company has done in the recent past, employees were urged to apply for unemployment insurance with their respective states across the nation.

Retaining benefits

The company did try to reassure employees by informing them that Hobby Lobby would maintain benefits for them.

“However, we will maintain medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits for employees while furloughed through at least May 1, 2020, and will pay the cost of employee premiums for these benefits on behalf of employees while furloughed without pay,” read the memo.

The company promises that when they return, employees will “retain their original dates of hire and any accrued PPTO and Vacation.”

Plans are to open stores “when the current situation improves.”

The closing line gave well-wishes to all.

“Until then, we pray for those affected by the virus, protection for the health care professionals caring for the sick, economic security for all impacted businesses and employees, and wisdom for our leaders.”

Direction change

Free Press reported at the end of the first week that the 4,000 employees at the headquarters and distribution campus in OKC were still expected to come into work after many other companies had sent employees home to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

And while most stores in OKC were closed, the company did keep some stores open in other states and even reopened some in two states after having first closed them.

Home base in OKC

David Green and his wife, Barbara Green own the company they started in 1972 in Oklahoma City.

David Green, 78 and a devout Christian, started a picture-framing business in his garage with a $600 loan and then opened his first Hobby Lobby store in Oklahoma City in 1972.

He gave $500 million in 2017 to fund the Bible Museum in Washington, D.C.

Mardel’s chain of religious gift and art stores are affiliates of the Hobby Lobby Corporation.

Correction: An earlier version of this report said that Green’s worth was $6.3 million. It is $6.3 billion.

Last Updated April 3, 2020, 6:15 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor