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Hobby Lobby closes all stores and furloughs most employees after initially resisting coronavirus shutdown orders

Essential or nonessential?

A Hobby Lobby store sits closed after the chain closed due to the COVID-19 crisis on Friday in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Hobby Lobby announced Friday that the company would close all stores nationwide until further notice and furlough a majority of its employees after initially attempting to keep stores open in defiance of state orders calling for the closure of nonessential businesses, Business Insider reported.

The furloughs will reportedly impact all employees below management level, and will extend at least through May 1, an employee told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.

The company attempted to assert itself as an essential business, citing its sale of materials used to make personal protective equipment such as masks that have been in short supply, even though state stay-at-home orders did not include Hobby Lobby in that category. From a statement on the Hobby Lobby website:

We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products. Over the past several weeks, we implemented several best practices to provide a safer shopping environment, including the installation of physical barriers between customers and cashiers, enhanced cleaning, and the enforcement of social distancing measures. We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores. 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.

Furloughed employees will no longer be able to use emergency time off or accrued paid time off benefits, and have been encouraged to file state unemployment claims immediately in order to take advantage of benefits offered through the recent coronavirus stimulus package. Employees will keep their health care benefits through May 1.

Hobby Lobby was criticized in late March for keeping stores open, and for a memo allegedly sent to store managers by owner David Green encouraging them that God would "guide, guard, and groom" them through the crisis.

Some employees reportedly were upset that stores were staying open because they didn't feel that the precautions being taken by the company were adequate to protect them.

Days before Hobby Lobby announced the closure of all stores, authorities had forced stores in some states to close.

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