In a show of support to employees worldwide, Starbucks announced Wednesday the use of $10 million to form the Starbucks Global Partner Emergency Relief Program to assist workers at company-operated and licensed international stores.

As part of the program, employees facing “extreme” hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic will have access to one-time, direct relief grants. Starbucks said it’s goal is to ensure workers “around the world have access to emergency support during this difficult time.”

Funds will be funneled to U.S. company workers through Caring United Partners and to European workers through the also newly created Starbucks EMEA Partner Relief Fund. The latter includes corporate markets in the U.K., Austria, Switzerland, as well as the company’s Roastery in Italy and roasting plant in the Netherlands.

Starbucks’ CUP fund was started in 1998 and has supported roughly 28,000 people since, the company said. It’s been extended to corporate stores in Canada, China, and Japan over the years.

The money, which will back Starbucks’ existing CUP platform, will also allow international licensed stores to set up funds for employees through the Emergency Assistance Foundation, with Starbucks contributing an initial investment.

The company said this is the first time in its history company-operated and international licensed market store employees across Starbucks could access hardship grants. Creating a pathway for international licensed markets to set up their own funds is also something the brand has never done.

“As we navigate this global crisis, we never lose sight of the wellbeing of our partners, who are the heartbeat of this company,” Lucy Helm, chief partner officer, said in a statement. “During this very difficult time, we believe it is our responsibility to create additional support for partners facing unexpected financial hardship wherever they are. We are proud to be a catalyst for a first-of-its-kind global funding initiative to further demonstrate to our Starbucks partners that we are in this together.”

“As each community faces unique response and recovery challenges, the new funds will be processed through the Emergency Assistance Foundation and enable licensed store operators in international markets to join Starbucks in providing support for partners in disaster designated areas, who are immediately eligible to apply for assistance,” the company added.

Qualified categories for fund grants include, but are not limited to, housing and utilities, sudden loss of home, death of a family member or partner, and related funeral expenses.

Starbucks, one of the largest chains in the world, has continually implemented initiatives to assist employees through the crisis.

In March, the company announced it was expanding catastrophe pay for employees who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 or have come into contact with someone who has been exposed or diagnosed. Starbucks said April 1 that it was extending the expanded catastrophe pay to May 3.

Additionally, the global brand has provided “Service Pay” to give workers an additional $3 per hour. It was originally set for March 21 through April 19, but that has been extended to May. Starbucks will adjust proration for one-time service bonuses for assistant store managers and store managers to include a payout for leaders serving 31-plus days, as well.

Since April 6, U.S. Starbucks employees and their family members have been eligible for 20 free mental health sessions per year through Lyra Health. The benefits include evidence-based mental health treatment along with access to healthcare providers that meet individual needs. This followed the addition of Headspace (a daily meditation app) to Starbucks’ suite of benefits in January.

Employee Management, Fast Food, Story, Starbucks