Amazon has two-pronged response to Seattle coronavirus outbreak

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Amazon has two-pronged response to Seattle coronavirus outbreak

By Dan Berthiaume - 03/10/2020
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An e-tail giant is launching two charitable efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on its home state.

Amazon is creating a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide cash grants to small businesses in Seattle that need assistance dealing with the impact of COVID-19. The fund is intended for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue, and with a physical presence within a few blocks of Amazon’s Regrade and South Lake Union office buildings. The businesses must also be open to the general public and reliant on foot traffic for customers.

The small businesses within the designated neighborhoods will be eligible to apply for grants so they can continue to retain and pay their employees, stay current on rent and cover other fixed costs related to their operations. Amazon will work with a third-party to administer grant applications and distribute funds. The plan is for applications to be reviewed during the second half of March and funds to be disbursed in April. 

In addition, Amazon will subsidize a full month of rent for tenants in the buildings it owns, and is continuing to pay all hourly staff who work for the service providers that support its offices in Seattle and Bellevue, Wash., during the time the company has recommended its employees work from home.

In addition, Amazon, Microsoft and other Seattle-area companies are partnering with nonprofits and governments to launch a relief fund that will rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations at the frontlines of the Puget Sound region’s coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 Response Fund will provide grants to organizations helping at-risk populations, such as workers who can’t take sick leave, people without health insurance, people with limited English language proficiency, healthcare and gig economy workers, and communities of color.

Amazon and Microsoft each contributed $1 million to the fund, which is designed to complement the work of public health officials and expand local capacity to address the outbreak as efficiently as possible.

The fund, hosted by Local Seattle, plans to give out an initial round of “rapid response grants” in the next few weeks. 

"There are urgent needs across the Puget Sound region, and it’s particularly important that the most vulnerable in society are supported during this difficult time for our community," said David Zapolsky, Amazon senior VP and general counsel. "The COVID-19 Response Fund is an excellent example of nonprofits, governments, and businesses coming together quickly with an innovative approach to an unprecedented issue."

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