By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Kroger Company, criticized locally for its planned announcement to close two stores in Long Beach after the city passed an ordinance mandated an extra $4 in hourly pay for grocery workers, is giving $100 to all employees who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Cincinnati-based company, which operates the Ralphs and Food4Less chains in Southern California, announced Friday that it will provide a “one- time payment of $100 to all associates who receive the full manufacturer- recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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In addition to the vaccine payment, the company also announced an additional $50 million investment to thank associates across 35 states, including a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points for hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates.

Both rewards will be loaded to associates’ loyalty cards on February 11.

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“We know that the most effective defense against this pandemic comes in the form of the COVID-19 vaccine and the continuation of the rigorous safety precautions we’ve established across our stores, manufacturing facilities and supply chain,” said Dr. Marc Watkins, Kroger’s chief medical officer. “We are strongly encouraging all customers and associates to receive the vaccine to curb the spread of COVID-19, and we’ll do all we can to ensure they have access as soon as it’s available.”

Kroger announced last week that it planned to close the Ralphs store at 3380 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal and the Food4Less store at 2185 E. South St. on April 17. The company said the city’s recently enacted “hero pay” ordinance would worsen financial conditions at the “long-struggling” locations.

Store workers and leaders with the United Food and Commercial Workers union blasted the decision as a retaliatory action by Kroger, which they claim has seen soaring profits.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)