Publix was handed a vaccine distribution deal weeks after donating $100,000 to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ PAC

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fiercely denied accusations of a pay-for-play deal with Publix, which donated $100,000 to his PAC in the weeks before he announced a deal to allow the grocery chain to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in the state.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces questions over a vaccine deal with the Publix grocery chain.
  • CBS “60 Minutes” reported that weeks before the announcement, Publix donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ PAC.
  • DeSantis told “60 Minutes” that any suggestion of a pay-for-play partnership was “a fake narrative.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces questions over his vaccine distribution partnership with the Publix grocery store chain, which donated a total of $100,000 to his political action committee in the weeks leading up to the deal’s announcement, 60 Minutes revealed Sunday.

DeSantis refused an interview with 60 Minutes, but was confronted by a reporter about the timing of the Publix donations at a press conference last month, where the governor denied any wrongdoing.

“What you’re saying is wrong … That’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis said. “I met with the county mayor. I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.'”

DeSantis announced in January that Publix would distribute COVID-19 vaccines through their pharmacies. The chain receives almost 1 in 4 of all Florida’s shots, according to local media.

A county commissioner, Melissa McKinlay, told 60 Minutes that the governor never met with her about the Publix partnership.

Publix responded to the criticism with a statement to 60 Minutes, calling the accusation that they paid for the chance to distribute the vaccines “absolutely false and offensive.”

publix
A Publix Food & Pharmacy store where COVID-19 vaccinations were being administered is seen on January 29, 2021 in Delray Beach, Florida.

“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive. We are proud of our pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic,” the statement read.

Insider reached out to both DeSantis and Publix for additional comment, but did not immediately receive a response Monday morning.

The details about the Publix donations and vaccine deal were part of a larger story into allegations of preferential treatment to wealthy Florida communities during the pandemic.

One of the flaws with the Publix partnership is that it made it difficult for residents in some poorer communities in Palm Beach County to get the vaccine.

In the community of Belle Glade, for example, the nearest Publix is 25 miles away, and for residents that don’t have a car, it takes two buses and a round trip of more than two hours.

Florida state Rep. Omari Hardy, a Democratic, told 60 Minutes that the vaccine rollout in the state “hasn’t worked for people of color.”

“Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense. They’re not accountable to the public,” Hardy said.

According to 60 Minutes, a federal complaint claims DeSantis discriminated when he picked where to hold pop-up vaccinations sites across the state.

60 Minutes detailed how DeSantis gave the community of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, one of the wealthiest enclaves in the state, 3,000 vaccines in February, after local developer Pat Neal donated $135,000 to the governor’s PAC.

DeSantis said he “saw a need” in the community to get vaccine rates up, despite the area having some of the lowest infection rates in the state.

And when he was questioned about the decision, DeSantis threatened to take the vaccines away.

“I mean if Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” DeSantis said, according to 60 Minutes.

Read the full story at 60 Minutes»

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Chick-fil-A is bringing its beloved sauces to more grocery stores. Walmart, Publix, HEB, and grocers in all states will get bottles this spring.

chick fil a sauce
  • Chick-fil-A is bringing 16-ounce sauces to stores across the US this spring.
  • Ten more states will have access to Chick-fil-A and Polynesian sauces by the end of March.
  • Restaurants also sell 8-ounce containers of all sauces.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chick-fil-A’s popular sauces will soon be available at more locations than ever, the company confirmed to Insider.

16-ounce bottles of Chick-fil-A and Polynesian sauce will be available in ten states beginning later in March, Chick-fil-A said. Customers will be able to purchase the sauces in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Food Lion, Harris Teeter, HEB, Publix, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie will carry them, the company told Insider.

The full-sized sauces will be available across the US “later this spring.”

Read more: Chick-fil-A’s out-of-control drive-thru lines have it facing off against local businesses and battling lawsuits

Chick-fil-A first introduced bottled sauces in 2020 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. The company doesn’t release sales numbers, but it’s safe to say the sauces are popular given the number of copycat recipes around the internet.

Participating Chick-fil-A locations also sell eight ounce bottles of Chick-fil-A sauces, including Barbeque, Honey Mustard and Garden Herb Ranch.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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The CDC is reportedly eyeing a ‘promising’ partnership with Dollar General to bring vaccines to rural communities, and Target is expanding access to shots with in-store CVS clinics

dollar general
dollar general

  • The CDC is eyeing a potential partnership with Dollar General, USA Today reported.
  • Dollar General has locations within 10-15 miles of rural communities in 46 states, the CDC said.
  • Target is now offering vaccine doses through over 600 in-store CVS pharmacies in 17 states.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the latest efforts to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly looking a partnership with Dollar General to bring vaccines to rural communities, while Target and CVS are working together to expand the rollout in 17 states.

Target began providing vaccine doses on Wednesday in over 600 CVS pharmacies located inside its store locations, the company said in an emailed statement to Insider. Eligible people can find an appointment through CVS’s website.

Shots are available at store locations in Virginia, New York, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, California, and Pennsylvania, the retailer said in the statement.

Target added that, “as states open up vaccines for frontline and essential workers, we’ll work with CVS and others to offer vaccines to team members within our stores and distribution centers in the future.”

Separately, the CDC is looking into working with Dollar General to expand vaccine outreach to Americans in rural areas, USA Today reported on Tuesday.

“We’re exploring a promising collaboration with Dollar General stores, which have locations that include refrigeration capacity within 10 or 15 miles of our rural communities in all but four states,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday at Health Action Alliance’s National Business Summit, according to USA Today. Dollar General has over 17,000 stores in 46 states.

Dollar General did not immediate respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Dollar General was the first retailer to announce plans to pay workers to get vaccinated. In January, the discount store said it will offer all 157,000 employees four hours worth of pay if they get the vaccine.

In February, the White House announced that over 40,000 pharmacies nationwide are set to receive vaccine doses to give to eligible people for free per the rollout of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination.

Last month, select CVS Pharmacy locations began offering around 570,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in 17 states as part of the program. CVS administered over three million vaccines and 15 million COVID-19 tests nationwide by mid-February.

The pharmacy chains and retailers partnering with the government in vaccine distribution include Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Publix, Costco, Albertsons, Hy-Vee, Meijer, and Winn-Dixie.

To date, 95.7 million vaccine doses have been provided to people in the US, according to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 tracker. An average of 2.17 million doses per day were administered this week, according to Bloomberg data.

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People are boycotting Publix because a member of its founding family gave $300,000 to the Trump rally that led to the January 6 Capitol riots

trump us capitol siege
Trump supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol building following a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • People are boycotting Publix after heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli was unmasked as a top donor to the January 6 Trump rally.
  • Fancelli is not a Publix employee but is set to inherit from the $8.8 billion founding family’s fortune.
  • Fancelli contributed most of the roughly $500,000 total raised for the “Stop the Steal” rally, the WSJ reported.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

People are calling for a boycott of Publix after the Wall Street Journal unmasked an heiress to the Southern grocery empire as the top donor to the Trump rally that led to the Capitol riots on January 6.

Julie Jenkins Fancelli, an heiress to the Publix founding family’s nearly $9 billion fortune, has previously donated millions to Republican causes and candidates. On January 30, the WSJ reported Fancelli as having contributed $300,000 out of the roughly $500,000 total raised for Trump’s now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally.

Publix has a dedicated fanbase, but Fancelli’s contribution to the rally was the last straw for many loyal customers, The Guardian reported Monday. On Monday, the hashtag #BoycottPublix was trending on Twitter, with many users expressing outrage and claiming betrayal over Fancelli’s donation.

Fancelli’s donation was facilitated by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who himself donated $50,000 to the rally that led to the deaths of five people, the Journal reported.

After the riots, corporations raced to cut ties with former president Trump and to end donations to political candidates that supported Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

After the publication of the WSJ article, Publix rapidly distanced itself from Fancelli in a Twitter statement, and said it did not employ her.

Fancelli is still president of the George Jenkins Foundation, Inc., Publix founder George Jenkins’s charity, which is not affiliated with the grocery chain. Since posting the statement on January 30, the Publix Twitter account – which previously posted around once a day – has been uncharacteristically silent.

This isn’t the first time Publix has courted controversy over its political donations. It came under fire after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded the chain an exclusive vaccine distribution contract. This followed the Publix PAC donating $100,000 donation to his campaign – a spokeswoman for DeSantis said any implication that the contract was a reward for the donation was “baseless and ridiculous,” per the Lakeland Ledger.

Leaders from predominantly Black communities throughout the state also criticized the contract, saying it deprived many Black Floridians of the chance to get vaccinated.

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