Amazon will donate $5M to help small businesses near its headquarters mitigate coronavirus losses

Amazon branding on a Seattle Streetcar in South Lake Union. Google’s Seattle offices are visible to the south. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Amazon pledged Tuesday to donate $5 million to small businesses around its Seattle headquarters that will be impacted by thousands of tech workers telecommuting in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund will provide cash grants to businesses near Amazon’s offices in Seattle and Bellevue, Wash., that rely on the foot traffic that ordinarily characterizes a bustling tech headquarters. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue will be eligible to apply. Companies seeking grants will be asked how much revenue they expect to lose due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“These businesses support tens of thousands of local jobs that are a critical part of the Seattle and Puget Sound economy,” wrote Amazon’s global real estate chief, John Schoettler, in a blog post. “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.”

Schoettler said a third party will administer the grants and begin dolling them out in April.

The fund is one of several moves Amazon is making in an attempt to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak in the Seattle region. Amazon and Microsoft each donated $1 million Monday to form a new coronavirus relief fund in partnership with government agencies and nonprofits in the Seattle area.

Amazon and other big Seattle tech companies have pledged to continue paying normal wages to the hourly workers who support their corporate headquarters, even if their hours are reduced. Amazon also told warehouse workers that unpaid time off will not count against them, and loosened other attendance restrictions, according to CNBC.

Companies across the Seattle region are asking all employees who can work from home to do so at the recommendation of public health officials. More than 160 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus, and 22 have died from it.

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