The leader in e-commerce sales, Amazon, is reaching a helping hand behind it in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The Seattle-based company approved a $5 million fund to support small businesses in the area struggling from a sudden slowdown since companies have instructed employees to work from home.
Amazon will issue cash grants to businesses with 50 employees or less or businesses that have less than $7 million in annual revenue that serve the public, rely on foot traffic, and have a physical presence "within a few blocks of our Regrade and South Lake Union office buildings," John Schoettler, Amazon vice president of global real estate and facilities, said in a message on the company's blog.
Schoettler expressed the importance of hundreds of restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, retailers and other small businesses that surround the company’s dozens of headquarters buildings, saying they “are a meaningful part of what give our neighborhoods the energy and vibrancy we all love.”
“These businesses support tens of thousands of local jobs that are a critical part of the Seattle and Puget Sound economy,” Schoettler said. “They’re our friends and neighbors, and we believe it’s important to try to help them confront the economic challenges that are likely to come from the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Amazon, along with other companies in King County, followed orders from officials last week in asking all employees who could work from home to do so in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus. The company has over 53,000 employees in the Seattle area.
Seattle labor groups are calling for assistance for contract workers who are losing hours and jobs as COVID-19 spreads.
Amazon joined Microsoft earlier this week in pledging $1million toward the Seattle Foundation aimed at developing a financial resource bank to aid local employees who lack health insurance or sick leave and have limited English proficiency.
Amazon also sits in a unique position. The company has a unique cafeteria layout at its campus in the north end of downtown Seattle allowing local food vendors to rent space and sell food items, and the vendors rely heavily on the foot traffic of Amazon employees. The company said last week it would subsidize rent to small businesses that lease space in its buildings and pledged to keep paying the more than 10,000 hourly workers who service its Seattle and Bellevue offices. Those businesses have the option to receive that subsidy and also apply for grants from the Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund, intended to pay employees, rent and other fixed costs.