Amazon providing $5 million in cash grants to neighboring businesses hurt by COVID-19

SEATTLE -- Food trucks, coffee shops and other small businesses surrounding Amazon's massive presence in Seattle's South Lake Union and Regrade neighborhoods have been feeling the pinch since thousands of Amazon employees began telecommuting to combat the spread of novel coronavirus.

In response, the online retail giant has created a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide cash grants to businesses that need financial assistance.

"These businesses support tens of thousands of local jobs that are a critical part of the Seattle and Puget Sound economy," Amazon said on a blog post announcing the grants. "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."

In addition to the grant fund, Amazon is subsidizing one month's rent for tenants in Amazon-owned buildings. The company is also continuing to pay the more than 10,000 hourly employees who work for the service providers that support Amazon's offices in Seattle and Bellevue -- food service workers, security guards, janitorial staff, etc.

The fund is intended for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue, physical presence within a few blocks of Amazon's Regrade and South Lake Union office buildings, that are open to the general public, and that are reliant on foot-traffic for customers.

Among the information that will be requested as part of the grant process will be how much revenue each applicant anticipates it'll lose in March with some associated back-up information.

Small businesses within the South Lake Union and Regrade neighborhoods will be eligible to apply for grants so they can continue to retain and pay their employees, stay current on rent, and cover other fixed costs related to their operations.

"This is a difficult time in our city, and we will continue to try to work with our community to get through it together," the company's blog says.