March 11 (UPI) — Amazon said this week that it would set up a $5 million fund to help Small Businesses in Seattle, such as bars, restaurants and fast-food trucks, make up for lost sales to many people working from home and help them pay their employees’ wages, according tomedia reports.
Amazon is trying to help the communities around its old and new headquarters.
Last week, Amazon told 50,000 Seattle employees to work from home for the rest of March. So far, the new coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide, and the company’s Washington state has had at least 23 deaths.
The online retail giant announced Tuesday that small businesses in Seattle’s South Lake Alliance community, where Amazon’s first headquarters are located, and Regrade, home to Amazon’s new office building, can apply for a grant — not a loan, meaning the money doesn’t need to be repaid. Amazon will give priority to subsidies for merchants who rely on traffic and are able to show information about how much they expect to lose this month. The company said it would release the money in April and would provide more information on how to apply on its official blog in the coming days.
At the same time, other U.S. tech giants are considering how to help individuals and businesses affected by the outbreak. Several sharing-economy start-ups, such as Uber, DoorDash, Lyft, Postmates and Instacart, are reportedly discussing a joint fund to pay drivers infected with the virus or quarantined. A few days ago, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, wrote to the chief executives of the companies urging them to help the drivers and dispensers who served them.
The relationship between Amazon and the city of Seattle is somewhat complicated. Amazon has been based in Seattle since Jeff Bezos began selling books online in 1995. With Amazon’s success and expanding its workforce, Seattle has become one of the largest technology centers in the United States. At the same time, the rising number of high-paying local jobs – pushing up house prices and leaving many homeless – has also made Amazon a target for politicians, activists and longtime residents who believe it is not doing enough to help residents and the Seattle businesses that can’t keep up.
The conflict between the two sides peaked in 2018. At the time, Amazon halted construction of new office buildings in downtown Seattle in protest at the city council’s attempt to pass a new payroll tax aimed at funding services and affordable housing for homeless people. Although the bill was passed, it was soon repealed. Last fall, Amazon spent nearly $1.5 million in a Seattle City Council race aimed at thwarting local politicians who support such taxes. However, it ultimately failed to do so.
Of course, Amazon has also spent considerable effort helping its old headquarters in the area around Seattle’s South Lake Alliance and the new Regrade neighborhood, where its new headquarters is located, to maintain its vitality and appeal to small businesses. The creation of a new rescue fund (with an initial allocation of $5 million) can be said to be a continuation of past practice, and the cost is not great. (Le Bang)