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Honda, Nissan Furlough Workers As Auto Plant Shutdowns Are Extended

Japanese car giants Nissan and Honda are furloughing thousands of workers as North American auto plants continue to be shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Honda has extended closures through the start of May, covering auto plants in Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Canada and Mexico, as well as other plants assembling engines and ATVs.

Honda had initially been paying employees to stay home during the shutdown, but a spokesman tells NPR the company now has "no work available" for more than 14,000 hourly workers. Honda employees will continue to receive their benefits while they are going without pay. And employees directly affected by the virus, including some parents of young children with no child care, can continue to access paid leave.

Nissan, which has plants in Mississippi and Tennessee, has extended closures through late April. The company says it is implementing "temporary layoffs" that will affect some 10,000 hourly workers.

"Affected employees will be eligible to apply for government support such as enhanced unemployment benefits," Nissan says.

Other automakers have also shuttered plants across the country, and many suppliers have shut down factories that provide parts for those cars.

Autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler plants are receiving partial pay during the shutdown, as well as being eligible for unemployment.

Meanwhile, some autoworkers and plants have begun making face shields, masks, ventilatorsor other medical equipment to help meet the country's urgent need for more supplies related to the coronavirus.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.