Tax will fund $200M immediate cash assistance for up to 100,000 households, then build 10,000 new homes
Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) presented a community petition signed by more than 5,400 community members to the City Council, calling on them to immediately enact the ‘Amazon Tax’ which she proposed last month with Councilmember Tammy J. Morales.
Sawant will bring forward the legislation on to the City Council agenda during a meeting of the Full Council today at 2:00 p.m. today (April 6).
The tax would be levied on Amazon and the biggest two percent of businesses in Seattle, raising $500 million a year beginning in June 2020, with $200 million dedicated this year to emergency COVID-19 relief to help up to 100,000 working-class households. Beginning in 2021, the tax would fund social housing and the Green New Deal in order to address the city’s critical housing emergency and the climate crisis.
The petition notes that with the COVID-19 pandemic, “working people and those marginalized in our society to begin with, are the ones most at risk from the vast spectrum of social consequences resulting from this pandemic.”
The petition continues:
“We join Councilmembers Tammy J. Morales and Kshama Sawant in calling for an immediate enactment of the Amazon Tax they have already proposed, but passing the ordinance immediately in order to fund the emergency needs of our community. . . .
“Big business has long been enjoying a tax haven in Seattle and Washington state. They need to immediately start paying at least $500 million/year as the Amazon Tax to fund COVID-19 emergency relief fund. After the pandemic has ended, the tax must be continued to fund social housing and the Green New Deal in order to address our critical housing and climate crises, as put forward by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales and the Tax Amazon movement.”
In addition to the petition, more than 1,1,20 community members have emailed City Councilmembers in the last five days, calling on the Council to send the legislation (links below) to the Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, where Councilmember Sawant serves as chair and Councilmember Morales serves as vice-chair. “It’s only appropriate that the legislation be heard in the committee led by the two sponsors,” the letters read.
“The community petition, along with the community letters, highlight that the COVID-19 crisis isn’t just a public health emergency. With tens of thousands of Seattle residents being laid off in just the last three weeks, it’s rapidly transforming into a jobs and housing emergency as well,” Sawant said. “Even before the COVID-19 crisis, more than 100,000 Seattle households, including both renters and homeowners, were considered “cost-burdened” – paying more than 30 percent of income on housing costs. Many of the people in these households are doubtless unemployed now, or facing the real prospect of unemployment.”
In just the last two week of March, nearly 82,000 King County residents filed new unemployment claims, according to the state Employment Security Department, and as Sawant pointed out, “we know that is a significant undercount because gig economy workers, independent contractors, and workers in the informal economy don’t usually apply when they lose work because they haven’t in the past qualified for benefits.”
“As Harvard economist Kenneth S. Rogoff has said, we might see ‘the mother of all financial crises.’ That’s why it’s urgent that the City Council enact this Tax Amazon legislation to rescue working class families now, and to enact an aggressive program of building social housing – permanently affordable and publicly-controlled housing, and green upgrades to existing housing. This will also create jobs in construction, manufacturing, and the service industries, to get people back to work in the months and years ahead.”
Today’s petition, Sawant said, “sends a clear message to the political establishment: You must act now, and stop protecting Amazon and other big businesses, who for years have evaded paying their fair share to Seattle.”
The legislation would:
- Tax Amazon and the biggest 2 percent of Seattle businesses – those with annual payrolls in excess of $7 million. Non-profit organizations, grocery stores, and public employers would be exempt;
- Fund emergency relief for up to 100,000 working-class households, including those who were recently laid off or lost income, low-income families and individuals, people experiencing homelessness, seniors, families with young children, and those at risk of deportation; and,
- In 2021 and beyond, fund the construction of up to 10,000 new social housing units – permanently affordable, rent-controlled homes – and also fund the conversion of tens of thousands of existing homes to meet Green New Deal standards, such as clean electricity and energy efficiency.