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Walmart just paid its Kentucky employees millions in bonuses. Here’s why.

Walmart gave its Kentucky employees $4.45 million in bonuses last week. The bonuses were one-time payments of up to $1,000 announced in January after Republican tax cuts were passed that saved the company money.
Walmart gave its Kentucky employees $4.45 million in bonuses last week. The bonuses were one-time payments of up to $1,000 announced in January after Republican tax cuts were passed that saved the company money.

Walmart workers across Kentucky had a little something extra in their Sept. 6 paychecks: $4.45 million in bonuses.

In January, associates, as hourly workers are called, received $200 to $1,000 in one-time payments after the Republican tax break that cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

But last week’s bonuses were on top of that. They were part of $200 million that the Arkansas-based retailer paid out to 915,000 hourly workers in the second quarter, a news release from the company states.

Why?

On Aug. 16, the company announced sales growth of 4.5 percent, the best performance in more than 10 years.

“We are proud to reward our outstanding associates across the Commonwealth for their performance,” said Kentucky regional general manager and vice president Thomas Underwood in a statement. “They are the reason our customers continue to come back time and time again, and we are proud to thank them with these bonuses.”

The company gives out bonuses every quarter, according to Anne Hatfield, Walmart spokeswoman, based on how well individual stores do. The program is called MyShare.

“The amount can vary from quarter to quarter, so the better earnings are and the better their store does, the better the bonus,” Hatfield said. “Every store is different but every associate at the store gets the same bonus. Employees love it.”

All employees, including part-time workers, are eligible after they have worked there for six months, she said.

Leading the way in growth for many stores was the important grocery segment, in which Walmart is aggressively taking on Amazon and Whole Foods as well as Kroger, Meijer and other stores.

Walmart now offers online grocery ordering and pickup at more than 1,800 locations and by the end of the year, about 40 percent of the U.S. population will have access to grocery delivery, according to the company.

Walmart is the nation’s largest employer with about 1.4 million employees. As the economy and job market have picked up, stakes have been raised for employers who want to stay competitive. In January, Walmart announced that it would raise its minimum wage to at least $11 an hour and expand some benefits.

But according to a labor group report, about half of Walmart’s workforce is still part-time, with reduced access to company benefits.

And even as Walmart was planning to boost base pay, the company closed dozens of its Sam’s Club warehouse stores in January and since has closed more under-performing Walmart stores, including one in Lexington and three in Louisville.

Lexington’s first Walmart, at Richmond Road and Man o’ War, closed Aug. 10.

The Walmart on Richmond Road, Lexington's first Walmart, will be closing.

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