Microsoft, Amazon and others form $2.5M coronavirus response fund

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Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks at a 2019 Town Hall event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft, Amazon, and other Seattle-area companies are partnering with nonprofits and governments to launch a relief fund in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 Response Fund will provide grants to organizations helping at-risk populations, like workers who can’t take sick leave, people without health insurance, and healthcare workers. It is launching with more than $2.5 million in donations from its founding partners.

Seattle Foundation will host the fund and administer one-time grants to support the work of public health organizations and nonprofits. Other partners include Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, United Way of King County, King County, and the City of Seattle.

Microsoft on Monday announced a gift of $1 million to the COVID-19 Response Fund. The money will help nonprofits and community organizations “on the frontline of the response” to COVID-19, Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post.

“This support will include rental assistance to keep people housed; help ensure children, seniors and families have access to food; and support healthcare workers on the front line,” Smith added.

In addition to the $1 million, Microsoft will match all employee donations to causes that aid in the response to COVID-19. Individuals and companies can donate to the response fund here.

Amazon is also donating an initial $1 million to the fund. The company detailed its involvement in a blog post published Monday. The Starbucks Foundation donated another $250,000 and the remaining funds come from additional partners.

“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 Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in a statement. “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.”

Amazon also told warehouse workers that unpaid time off will not count against them and loosened other attendance restrictions, CNBC reports.

Microsoft, Amazon, and others in the Seattle tech community have pledged to continue paying normal wages to the hourly workers who support their corporate headquarters, even if their hours are reduced. The companies have asked all employees who can work from home to do so, heeding advice from public health officials.

The Seattle area is at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak and the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19. Expanded testing has revealed an increasing number of cases in Washington state. The state Department of Health reported more than 130 cases and 18 deaths associated with the virus as of Monday morning.

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