Amazon, Seattle Employers Face New Tax to Curb Homelessness

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The Seattle City Council passed a new tax on big businesses Monday to help address the city's growing homelessness problem, agreeing to a lower rate than initially proposed after complaints from Amazon.com and other city firms. The tax would sunset or go away in 2023. She said she ultimately supported the compromise because it creates "a significant new revenue stream" to build more affordable housing. "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a 5-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction".

The legislation was born out of Seattle's "Progressive Revenue Task Force."

Ahead of the vote, the city's Mayor Jenny Durkan and four other councillors said they would only support a $250 fee, claiming it would damage the city's business climate. The council would have needed an additional councilmember to change their no vote to a yes in order to prevent a veto.

The initial proposal - $500 per employee - met aggressive opposition from Amazon.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant cast the only "no" vote Monday on an amendment that reduced the size of the tax.

We are disappointed by today's City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs.

Shannon Brown, 55, who has been living a tiny home at a south Seattle homeless encampment, said there's simply not enough housing for the city's poorest people.


Under the approved head tax, 591 units of mixed-income housing and permanent supportive housing are expected to be created in the five-year spending plan. The so-called head tax would raise about $48 million a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services.

"We have community members who are dying", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda before the 9-0 vote.

"If sweeps need to stop", Sawant said, "then take a stand that sweeps need to stop".

Proponents say people are dying on the streets, and while city-funded programs found homes for 3,400 people previous year, the problem deepens.

"As a union rep, we meet with our employers to discuss our problems and come up with solutions jointly", Bufford said.

Amazon said it is still evaluating whether to sub-lease space in a second future office tower in Seattle, a project called Rainier Square, meaning it may move some planned jobs elsewhere and thus avoid further raising its tax liability. "It seems like some of the council members, mainly Mrs. Sawant, have gone on the offense against Amazon in particular".

In the meantime, Amazon, Starbucks, and the other approximately 3% of Seattle businesses that will be dinged in the process have some time to start saving up. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson rejected calls from labor group Working Washington to charge Amazon with intimidating a public servant - a Class B felony - over its construction decision.

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