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We're Open: Farm to Market Bread Co. hopes state can help avoid layoffs

Farm to Market bread inside
Farm to Market Bread Co. exterior
Posted at 4:00 AM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 12:57:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside Farm to Market Bread Co. in the Crossroads Art District of Kansas City, Missouri, production has been rolling along.

Two weeks ago, the business shifted its focus from buns and rolls to the sliced bread, which is flying off Kansas City-area store shelves.

"The bread aisles were cleaned out," Farm to Market Bread Co. Vice President John Friend said. "We got some requests from some of the local grocers to see what we could do to fill it up."

Just as the city's stay-at-home order took effect, the company experienced its biggest-ever week of grocery sales.

"Now, people are stocked up, so the grocery stores have slowed down, and then the commercial bakeries have been able to catch up and fill up the shelves," Friend said.

Meanwhile, business at Farm to Market Bread Co.'s restaurant is down 90%.

"It's a little scary not knowing what the future is going to hold," Friend said.

Farm to Market Bread Co. has 60 employees.

The company has avoided layoffs so far by cutting hours, but now they're also looking for help from the state of Missouri through the Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program, which allows employers to reduce workers' hours instead of laying them off.

Employees working reduced hours can receive a portion of their unemployment benefits while still working whatever hours are available.

But submitting an application to the state proved difficult for Farm to Market.

"We have tried to call the program, but their phone system is just saying voicemail's full, not accepting calls," Friend said. "Their email, emails get sent back. Their fax system isn't working."

The 41 Action News Investigators encountered the same problems while attempting to contact the program, which is run by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Unable to get in touch with anyone, Farm to Market mailed its application in on March 24.

We reached out to representatives for the state and learned Farm to Market's application was approved March 30. A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Labor said four days is a typical turnaround time right now.

She acknowledged the email address listed online did not work and said that it would be changed.

Within hours of the 41 Action News Investigators reaching out, an updated email address was added to the page.

Farm to Market hopes the process will be less confusing for other businesses moving forward.

"We hope that this will be three, four months," Friend said of utilizing the Shared Work program. "We do see a way for us to get through this, but it's difficult on them."

According to a state spokeswoman, businesses should apply for the Shared Work program online and can send any questions to shared.work@labor.mo.gov. Phones at the Department of Labor likely will be tied up as the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting economic chaos, continues.

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