Amazon announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it is shutting down its charitable e-commerce platform AmazonSmile, which lets customers support their favorite nonprofits while shopping.
Instead, the tech company says it will focus on areas of more “meaningful change,” chiefly, investments in affordable housing. One of the first examples it highlighted was its contributions in Arlington County, the home of its forthcoming second headquarters.
“In one year alone, our investments have been able to increase the affordable housing stock in communities like Bellevue, Washington and Arlington, Virginia by at least 20%,” it said.
That’s a fair statement, according to Arlington County.
Per a 2022 annual report on affordable housing, Arlington County had 8,650 total committed affordable units (CAFs) in the 2020 fiscal year.
“With Amazon’s support, we added 619 CAFs via Crystal House in FY21 and 1,334 CAFs via [Barcroft Apartments] in FY22, which is 1,953 total CAFs added between those two projects and a more than 20% increase over the FY20 CAF total,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
In December 2021, Amazon loaned $160 million — on top of a $150 million from Arlington County — to real estate developer Jair Lynch to facilitate the purchase of the Barcroft Apartments on the condition that Jair Lynch preserve 1,334 units for affordable housing.
In January 2021, Amazon issued another loan to help the Washington Housing Conservancy purchase the Crystal House apartment complex (1900 S. Eads St) and stabilize rent at the complex, one block from Amazon’s future HQ2.
Arlington County has selected a developer to oversee the construction of 655 CAFs of infill development within the site, which would further increase the number of affordable units with ties to Amazon donations.
“We’re investing $2 billion to build and preserve affordable housing in our hometown communities,” the company said. “In just two years, we’ve provided funding to create more than 14,000 affordable homes — and we expect to build at least 6,000 more in the coming months. These units will host more than 18,000 moderate- to low-income families, many of them with children.”
The end of AmazonSmile, which the company says has not created “the impact we had originally hoped,” comes just a few days after the tech company announced it will lay off 18,000 employees. The company maintains it will still bring 25,000 jobs to its second headquarters, despite slowing growth.
Should it hit that mark, the tech and retail giant will be able to claim $550 million in state grants through 2042, and another $200 million should it hire 37,850 full-time HQ2 employees by 2035. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed setting aside $78 million in the new two-year state budget to help fund the grants, the Washington Business Journal reports.
The full AmazonSmile announcement is below.
In 2013, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favorite charities. However, after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations–more than 1 million globally–our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.
We are writing to let you know that we plan to wind down AmazonSmile by February 20, 2023. We will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change–from building affordable housing to providing access to computer science education for students in underserved communities to using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist broad communities impacted by natural disasters.
To help charities that have been a part of the AmazonSmile program with this transition, we will be providing them with a one-time donation equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program, and they will also be able to accrue additional donations until the program officially closes in February. Once AmazonSmile closes, charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists.
As a company, we will continue supporting a wide range of other programs that help thousands of charities and communities across the U.S. For instance:
Housing Equity Fund: We’re investing $2 billion to build and preserve affordable housing in our hometown communities. In just two years, we’ve provided funding to create more than 14,000 affordable homes–and we expect to build at least 6,000 more in the coming months. These units will host more than 18,000 moderate- to low-income families, many of them with children. In one year alone, our investments have been able to increase the affordable housing stock in communities like Bellevue, Washington and Arlington, Virginia by at least 20%.
Amazon Future Engineer: We’ve funded computer science curriculum for more than 600,000 students across over 5,000 schools–all in underserved communities. We have plans to reach an additional 1 million students this year. We’ve also provided immediate assistance to 55,000 students in our hometown communities by giving them warm clothes for the winter, food, and school supplies.
Community Delivery Program: We’ve partnered with food banks in 35 U.S. cities to deliver more than 23 million meals, using our logistics infrastructure to help families in need access healthy food – and we plan to deliver 12 million more meals this year alone. In addition to our delivery services, we’ve also donated 30 million meals in communities across the country.
Amazon Disaster Relief: We’re using our logistics capabilities, inventory, and cloud technology to provide fast aid to communities affected by natural disasters. For example, we’ve created a Disaster Relief Hub in Atlanta with more than 1 million relief items ready for deployment, our Disaster Relief team has responded to more than 95 natural disasters, and we’ve donated more than 20 million relief products to nonprofits assisting communities on the ground.
Community Giving: We support hundreds of local nonprofits doing meaningful work in cities where our employees and their families live. For example, each year we donate hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations working to build stronger communities, from youth sport leagues, to local community colleges, to shelters for families experiencing homelessness.
We’ll continue working to make a difference in many ways, and our long-term commitment to our communities remains the same–we’re determined to do every day better for our customers, our employees, and the world at large.
Hat tip to James Breiling
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