Coronavirus: Jeff Bezos, world’s richest man, asks public to donate to Amazon relief fund

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos faces backlash after publicising a relief fund the public can donate to for his contract employees working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Amazon Relief Fund was created with $25m from the e-commerce company to assist its “employees and partners”, specifically those who are responsible for the necessary task of delivering all the products consumers order across the US.

It’s focused on “supporting our US-based Delivery Associates employed by Delivery Service Providers, our Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, and Associates working for Integrity Staffing, Adecco Staffing, and RES Staffing, and drivers and support team members of line haul partners under financial distress due to a Covid-19 diagnosis or quarantine.”

Besides the company contributing USD$25m to the fund, it also allows the public to donate if they deem it important. “While we aren’t expecting anyone to do so, you can make a voluntary donation to the fund if you desire to do so,” Amazon wrote on its fund’s website.

Amazon tweaked the wording to the above after initially encouraging people to donate via text, according to Popular Information.

But asking for public donations has still caught some backlash online.

“How is your company worth over a TRILLION dollars and you want the public to donate to an employee relief fund?! As if Amazon can’t pay their employees themselves,” one frustrated consumer wrote on Twitter.

Amazon is worth USD$1tn, and Mr Bezos is worth an estimated USD$114bn, making him the world’s richest man. In 2018, the company reported an income of USD$11bn but paid $0 into federal taxes.

As the pandemic continues and more consumers turn to the e-commerce site to stock up on necessary essentials, the company is anticipated to post an even larger income this year. But it is still asking for consumers to contribute to its fund if they would like.

“We are not and have not asked for donations and the Amazon Relief Fund has been funded by Amazon with an initial donation of USD$25 million. The structure to operate a fund like this, which hundreds of companies do through the same third-party, requires the program to be open to public contributions but we are not soliciting those contributions in any way,” a spokesperson with Amazon told The Independent.

Amazon announced that during the pandemic it would be hiring an additional 100,000 employees to help address the surge in demand for its services. It also increased pay by USD$2 per hour and doubled pay when working overtime for employees on the frontlines.

Initially, the company decided it would only pay full-time employees sick leave during the pandemic. Up to two weeks of sick leave would be provided to “all Amazon employees diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed into quarantine.”

Employees in places like Chicago and Sacramento then put pressure on the company to extend its policy to cover part-time workers in the warehouses. On Monday, Amazon agreed it would extend its sick leave policy to those who work 20 hours or more.

People who are not covered for paid sick leave are encouraged to apply for Amazon’s relief fund.