Tax will provide $200M in relief for up to 100K households this year, subsequently fund social housing and Green New Deal
Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3 – Central Seattle) and Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2 – South Seattle & Chinatown/Int’l District) announced three pieces of legislation to accelerate taxation of Amazon and other big businesses to generate $200 million in relief for up to 100,000 low-income households and individuals struggling with the economic fallout from COVID19 (the coronavirus) pandemic.
Councilmembers Morales and Sawant announced a legislative package on March 4 to tax the top 800, or two percent, of Seattle’s for-profit businesses, as measured by size of corporate payroll. The other 98 percent would be exempt.
The revenue would be generated with the accelerated legislation through a 1.3 percent excise tax on the corporate payrolls of for-profit companies whose payrolls are greater than $7 million annually.
Non-profit organizations, public employers, and grocery stores also would be exempt, regardless of size.
When the Councilmembers initially announced the tax on March 4, before the onset of the pandemic, the goal was for the tax to be effective starting Jan. 1, 2021. However, given COVID19 (the coronavirus pandemic), Morales and Sawant are now proposing to impose the tax beginning June 1, 2020. This year, in 2020, 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.. Under the new proposal, beginning in 2021, the taxes raised would be applied to investments in affordable social housing; and, Green New Deal investments, which would also be a jobs program.
“Working people are facing the twin crises of coronavirus and capitalism,” Sawant said. “Even in this pandemic, the wealthiest corporations are getting bailed out, while many of them, like Amazon, are exploiting their workers by denying them basic protective equipment, paid leave, and hazard pay. Now, more than ever, this city’s politicians need to tax big business to address the unprecedented economic collapse working families are now facing. After the pandemic has ended, the tax must be continued to fund social housing and the Green New Deal, and create thousands of jobs during what will be a deep recession.”
“With this Public Health crisis, we have already begun to see devastating results: Unemployment rates may reach as high as 30% nationwide and claims for unemployment benefits in Washington state rose by 843%. Every day, I receive dozens of emails and phone calls from district residents seeking help because they lost their small business, or their entire household lost their jobs. There are many cascading effects that involve food insecurity, eviction, lack of healthcare, foreclosure threats, cultural loss, and so on. We know our existing resources are not enough, we must act swiftly to provide relief,” Morales said.
Under the Sawant-Morales plan, up to 100,000 low-income households and individuals would receive four months of cash payments of $500 for a total of $2,000. The legislation directs the City to prioritize 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. 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,” Morales said.
The text of the new legislation, which will be an update of the original legislation to tax Amazon and other big businesses (here and here), will be posted to the Introduction and Referral Calendar on Friday, April 3 and formally introduced to City Council on April 6 during the Full Council meeting.
“Working people desperately need help, and federal and state aid is not nearly enough to help households avoid hunger and destitution. 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,” Sawant said.
As part of that movement-building, in recent days, more than 6,000 Seattleites have signed a community petition demanding that the full City Council join Councilmembers Morales and Sawant to immediately pass a big business tax of at least $500 million for Coronavirus Emergency Relief, and continue the tax after the crisis to fund permanently affordable, rent-controlled social housing and a Green New Deal for Seattle.
A Summary of the legislation is available ONLINE.
A Recording of the press conference is available via Seattle Channel.