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The Sawant-Morales plan: Accelerate ‘Amazon Tax’ for $500/month Seattle COVID-19 relief payments

(Image: Tax Amazon)

Capitol Hill and the Central District’s Seattle City Council representative Kshama Sawant and her South Seattle counterpart Tammy Morales are putting forth a proposal to accelerate their Tax Amazon effort to raise around $200 million in funds to help residents overcome the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

The new version of the legislation slated for council chambers would shift revenue from a tax on Seattle’s largest companies to provide four months of $500 cash payments to 100,000 qualifying households across the city in an emergency measure prioritizing assistance to “seniors; those that are undocumented, immigrants, and refugees; individuals experiencing homelessness; working people who have lost incomes and become destitute as a result of the pandemic; and, others who experience structural or institutional barriers to accessing support from the government.”

“We know that $500 a month will not cover rent fully; but it can help buy groceries or diapers or help cover health care costs. And we know how important it will be to pass legislation that addresses these issues holistically and work with our partners at every level,” Morales said in a statement announcing the plan. “It is also vital that Seattle begin to think strategically about how to rebuild our communities in a way that ensures resiliency and full recovery for our neighbors.”

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More than 133,000 Washingtonians filed for unemployment benefits from March 15-21, up from just over 14,000 the week before, according to the Employment Security Department, as the state’s moves to blunt the spread of the novel coronavirus virus got more and more restrictive. King County residents accounted for 37,296 of the jobless claims that week. More than 41,000 were in the accommodation and food services industry.

The new proposal would bring “accelerated legislation” to create a 1.3% excise tax on “the corporate payrolls of for-profit companies whose payrolls are greater than $7 million annually” starting June 1st. Nonprofits, public employers, and grocery stores would be exempt.

For its first year as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, the funds would be dedicated to providing emergency cash assistance for up to 100,000 low-income households, “including those that have lost income as a result of the pandemic.” Then, beginning in 2021, the taxes raised would be applied to investments proposed in the initial effort: affordable social housing, and a Green New Deal jobs program.

The spending plan includes starting the relief effort by borrowing $200 million from other city programs:

Earlier in March, Sawant announced that Morales had joined as co-sponsor on the Tax Amazon legislation to create a payroll tax on the city’s largest 3% of businesses in Seattle to raise $300 million annually for homelessness and housing programs.

Meanwhile, the Taz Amazon group formed to push for the new tax announced it was filing to hold a ballot initiative on the tax “in order to fund social housing and a Green New Deal” this fall.

In 2018, the city council passed and then rolled back a $275 per full-time employee tax on companies reporting $20 million or greater in annual “taxable gross receipts.” That tax would have generated about $50 million annually.

A ballot initiative in Seattle on a business tax to help pay for the homelessness crisis would not be unique. In 2018, voters approved a measure in San Francisco that taxed businesses to fund housing and services. That tax was expected to generate about $300 million a year.

As the ballot push continues, Sawant and Morales are now lined up to continue a complementary push for the tax in Council chambers.

Any economic relief in the city would join the federal $2 trillion bill, the largest economic relief bill in the nation’s history. The federal package has cash for individuals including one-time payments of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to married couples making up to $150,000, plus $500 payments per child. The bill also allocates $250 billion for unemployment insurance to more workers — including self-employed people — and would lengthen the duration. The bill would provide an unemployed worker an additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government. There are also breaks for federal student loan programs, and retirement accounts.

“Working people desperately need help, and federal and state aid is not nearly enough to help households avoid hunger and destitution,” Sawant said Wednesday. “Yet at the same time, we know it will take a mass movement to win this legislation, because the political establishment will spare no effort to protect big business even during this crisis.”

Seattle’s business leaders are set to continue their opposition to a new payroll tax. “We are in a crisis that calls for collaboration and partnership,” said Alicia Teel, spokesperson for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Our economy looks very different than it did a month ago and we need leaders to bring us together, not drive us apart. Our region faces a long road to recovery, and the Chamber is working with local, state, and federal leaders to make that recovery as inclusive as possible.”

The offices of Morales and Sawant say the proposal will be brought in front of the city council on April 6th. Monday, the council approved a non-binding resolution calling on leaders to impose an immediate moratorium on rent and mortgage payments.

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36 thoughts on “The Sawant-Morales plan: Accelerate ‘Amazon Tax’ for $500/month Seattle COVID-19 relief payments

  1. Please tell me this is an April 1st joke?

    (Although I imagine the homeless meth addicts who trashed my house for drug money would have appreciated the convenience!)

    • Why would you want this to be a joke? We are in the most difficult economic climate in our lifetime. There will be many families and people who could lose their homes. Amazon should make out well after this all settles. Why shouldn’t they be taxed to help the well-being of a citizen who will likely be left behind.

    • Amazon and other corporations are actually stepping up amid this crisis to help the local companies (paying rent for restaurants in their buildings that are shut down, etc.) They are adding new jobs. Wake up Sawant.. this is what Seattle will look like all the time if you keep putting a mark on Amazon and other corporations with taxes.

      • I honestly don’t think taxing Amazon is nearly as harmful to their willingness to keep staying/growing in Seattle as is the spiteful rhetoric from the Sawant crowd.

        Seattle had a homeless and affordable housing problem long before Amazon exploded here. And lots of cities without Amazon have rapidly rising rents too.

      • In case anyone was skeptical, this should clear it up— Sawant & Co will never be satisfied with whatever they manage to tax Amazon….they’ll always keep coming back for more-more-more. I suspect Amazon knows this, which is why they fight so hard against the first round. It’ll never be enough.

      • if you do the math Amazon chipping in a few (5 I think) millions for downtown businesses is equivalent to $25 of charity for a person with Seattle’s average income…it does not sound that generous to me.

  2. The city budget will be decimated by recent events. Before signing up for $200 million a year in new spending the council should examine what gaps we have in our current budget obligations.

    This article also indicates the new tax applies to any business with over $7 million of payroll. That’s not exactly a large company. The tax would hit many moderate size companies — many of them are probably not profitable right now.

  3. Luckily, only Seattle is subject to the Communist Click (CC) Sawant-Morales.

    So all the corporations the (CC) wants to punish for employing over 100k people can shut down their Seattle properties and move to Bellevue, Issaquah, anywhere the Sawant-Morales Communist Click are not.

    Communism sucks!

  4. Tax them. It’s insane that Bezos can have 27 megayachts but can’t give slightly better benefits to his slave warehouse workers.

    Amazon kills. TAX THEM NOW!

  5. This is obviously a backdoor attempt by Sawant/Morales to get their pet issue (Amazon tax) passed, because who would be against helping the laid-off workers at this time? It is an opportunistic ploy to use the pandemic crisis to get their leftist proposal in place for the long-term, well after the crisis has passed.

    I think that most unemployed workers will be OK when they receive their state unemployment check plus the extra $600/week from the federal legislation (which can’t happen soon enough). They don’t need city money too. If they are still financially stressed when their unemployment runs out, then it should be extended, or other funding options put in place.

    And to hand over city cash to homeless addicts and alcoholics? Where do you think that money is going to go?

  6. Amazon is attempting to BECOME the supply chain. They should be broken up by the federal government to prevent any more violations of antitrust laws.

    It’s confounding to see how many people on here with conservative leanings, also bend over backwards to support Amazon??? Sounds like BOOMER logic to me, lined with privileged and idiocy.

    Amazon is indefensible, and if you try, you’re always going to be wrong. 100% of the time. There is no good excuse for the existence of a company like amazon, nor is there an excuse for Jeff Bezos’ unearned wealth.

      • I sleep better at night knowing that you are on the job, letting us know who is deserving, and who is not. It really clears up so many things. It must be wonderful being you.

    • At age 56, Jeff Bezos is worth $120 billion. If he started working 24/7 the day he was born, he would be earning close to $250,000/hr.

      No occupation is worth that much. Therefore, the only other way he (and other billionaires) could have acquired that is theft.

      Basically, the last 50 years of tax cuts on the wealthy (from 92% in 1952 to 37% today) have allowed him and other wealthy individuals to siphon off GDP production, that would otherwise go to increased workers wages or education, infrastructure, safety net, social services, etc via taxes.

      20% of our GDP accumulating in the coffers of 1% of the population is not a recipe for a healthy country. Hopefully this crisis will wake up our voting base to stop electing representatives that do not have our interest in mind.

      • Bezos is worth that much because he had good ideas, worked very hard, hired talented educated people from all around the world and… because…. wait for it…. he provides a quality service hundreds of millions of people want.

        Which is probably why 9 out of 10 radical leftists use Amazon, including cult leader Sawant. If Bezos did not offer new ideas, technology and innovation he would not be a billionaire. See how that works?

      • Amazon would still be what it is if the tax on the wealthy was higher. He has made money by exploiting and suppressing wages and benefits of workers.

        In the end, he is just one of many wealthy people that are nothing more than a resurgence of the robber barons from 100 years ago (neo robber baron?)

        The question is if we’ll come to our senses like we did in the 30s and correct this.

      • Bezos’s salary in 2019 was $88,000.

        Yeah, just like any other smart CEO that knows how to work the tax code. I’ll give you a hint: capital gains taxes top out at 20%.

        If you believe that his only income is his pittance salary, you are a useful idiot.

  7. Tom Douglas was the first to close his restaurants due to the lack of foot traffic caused by Amazon’s “work from home” policy. This is what’s going to happen once Amazon is driven out of the city. All of those businesses where Sawant supporters work are going to remain shuttered and their pot will run dry. So keep on driving the bus towards the cliff Sawant…eventually you’re going to be sailing over the edge.

  8. Here we are, yet another day in Seattle on this blog with a bunch of whining.

    Terrible things are happening globally and nationally and locally. Shame on these extreme left politicians for using this historical crisis as an opportunity to push an outlandish agenda.

    I personally thank Amazon for all they’ve done for this city and country in general. And I personally thank them for making it so easy for me to not have to leave my home and be exposed to this virus.

    • Exactly right. That’s why they call them woke & broke: Socialists advocate for less jobs so they can complain about being unemployed and end up as permanent wards of the state. Who would have thought ‘Workers of the World’ would ever turn into ‘Workers Against Work’?

  9. Well if Amazon leaves Seattle, and it take years to fix the West Seattle Bridge, there should be some bargains for homes in the city. Look at the bright side of things folks. The rich folks will live in Bellevue, and the poor and blue collar middle class could finally move back.

  10. Aside from the usual keyboard warriors commenting it looks like all the MyNorthwest trolls have found a new home on this blog. With this much time on their hands it would appear many of them are ‘non-essential’. It’s telling that capitalist ideology was the first thing to suffer during this pandemic. The days of Seattle being a corporate tax shelter are over – deal with it. Hopefully an income tax will follow this measure.

    • Oh, right. Everybody who disagrees with you & your ideology bubble is a troll. How’s about trying to mount a cohesive argument rather always trying to “other” people who aren’t members of your club.

      • Nah. Right wing and ‘libertarian’ trolls are usually funded by capitalism and greedy ideologues that have zero respect for the environment and the middle class so there is a need to call them out en mass. If you don’t like it there’s a safe space for you on the “other” side of the Cascades.

  11. Socialists are simply leaches. Rather than learn/teach skills that could create productive members of society, they always drag big thinkers & hard workers down to their level of laziness and failure. Now is not the time drive job-creators and entrepreneurs out of time, fools.

    • Big thinkers like you?

      Many hard workers, although they might not have salaries up to your big thinkers’ level, become unemployed and need help during this crisis. But you’d probably call them leeches too.

  12. So thankful I moved away from Seattle. I don’t have to listen to that nut case Sawant and her lame brain ideas. Is it Amazon’s and other corporations’ responsibility to provide housing for Seattleites? No. Does anyone believe companies will stay in Seattle with this attitude, because they won’t. So in five years or so, when the large corporations are gone, don’t say you weren’t forewarned. And you can blame your wacky politicians for it.

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