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Jeff Bezos Donates $98.5 Million To Charities That Help The Homeless

Although the ubiquity of Amazon in our lives goes a long way to explain how founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was able to amass a staggering $109 billion fortune, that doesn't necessarily mean he and his company have enjoyed a sterling reputation.

In addition to some bad press for cutting health benefits on part-time Whole Foods employees, Amazon has long faced criticism for the working conditions enshrined by management in its warehouses.

Add that to the growing debate over whether billionaires should even exist in an ideal world and it becomes clear that Bezos and his company aren't necessarily as popular among the public as their revenues might suggest.

With this in mind, it's hard not to put charitable donations like his most recent spate of generosity within a larger context.

Last Thursday, Bezos announced his pledge to donate $98.5 million in 2019.

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As The Daily Mail reported, this money will be spread along 32 different organizations committed to sheltering homeless families throughout 23 states. The amount awarded to each organization ranged from $1.25 million to $5 million.

Bezos had a similar donation plan last year and gave $97.5 million to 24 organizations with the same mission throughout 16 states.

These Donations were made through his charity foundation, the Bezos Day 1 Fund, that launched in September of 2018.

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In addition to providing funding for for organizations that help homeless families, this Fund is also intended to fund a special line of pre-schools similar to Montessori.

Back when this fund began, Bezos said he would set aside $2 billion for this fund. So far, none of the school projects have materialized.

While it's certainly good to support homelessness charities with donations like these, it's worth noting that Bezos had a previous opportunity to aid the homeless.

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As Vanity Fair reported, the city of Seattle passed an ordinance intended to tax businesses that make at least $20 million in gross revenue $275 per employee.

Their goal in doing this was to raise $50 million annually to stem the ongoing homelessness crisis in the city.

Although Bezos' company, Amazon, wasn't the only firm opposed to the tax, they had the most influence in killing it.

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Amazon is based in Seattle and was in the process of expanding its operations there by building a skyscraper, but halted construction for as long as this tax remained in place.

As a result, the tax was repealed and the Seattle city council made the following statement: "It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis."

It's worth noting that this tax fight occurred about six months before Bezos established the Day 1 Fund.

This tale gives us some insight into why UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was less than impressed by Bezos' donations.

As impressive as a $98.5 million donation sounds in a vacuum, it's hard not to recognize that a tax contribution appropriate for someone of his level of wealth could result in an even greater public good.

h/t: The Daily Mail, Vanity Fair