Amazon extended relief funds for small businesses surrounding its offices to those in Bellevue and said it would continue offering free rent to retail tenants of its own buildings through April.
Like small businesses everywhere, those serving customers in the South Lake Union and Denny Regrade neighborhoods have seen business evaporate, first with Amazon’s work-from-home guidance to employees and now with a shutdown of bars and restaurants to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The company last week said it would provide $5 million in emergency grant funding to small businesses around its Seattle headquarters with revenue of less than $7 million or fewer than 50 employees. An application page for the so-called Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund says, “Our goal with this fund is to help ensure small businesses are able to maintain their livelihood and keep our community vibrant.”
Applications will be reviewed as they are received, the company said, with funds to be dispersed “as quickly as possible” to businesses that meet Amazon’s eligibility criteria.
Amazon clarified what businesses would be eligible for grant funding: The focus is independently owned service or retail establishments open to the general public that rely on foot traffic. Businesses such as a dentist’s office or retail outlets owned by publicly traded companies do not qualify.
“We will prioritize available funding for those businesses closest to the buildings where our employees work and are able to provide evidence of decreased revenue,” the company said on a page explaining the fund. Amazon has a growing presence in Bellevue, which was added to the scope of the neighborhood relief fund.
Amazon is placing no requirements on how a business uses the grant funds, and said it will not inspect recipients’ spending. The money is intended to “cover day-to-day operating expenses and maintain their businesses.” The company describes this as support for “managing short-term variations in cash-flow demonstrated by the effect of reduced foot traffic.”
But it also said businesses “are eligible to apply for additional grant support due to reduced foot traffic over an extended period of time.” That, plus the extension of rent subsidies through April, suggests the company may be anticipating its own headquarters workforce will be working from home beyond the end of the month.