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Amid coronavirus, Amazon offers more economic supports to workers

The company created two new funds for small businesses in addition to offering pay to affected employees.

At Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.
James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Amazon said Wednesday it's expanding its work to support businesses and workers connected to the giant online retailer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said it will now offer up to two weeks of pay for any Amazon employee diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness or placed in quarantine. This payment is in addition to Amazon's offer for unlimited unpaid leave for all hourly employees through this month, which the company started offering last week.

Amazon said it also created the Amazon Relief Fund with a $25 million initial contribution to help independent delivery businesses and their drivers, gig workers who pick up work through the Amazon Flex delivery program and seasonal employees.

On Tuesday, the retailer said it would offer a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to give cash grants to small businesses located around its Seattle headquarter buildings.

These funds come as world leaders expect an economic slowdown as conferences and concerts are canceled, millions of people are quarantined and business travel grinds to a halt in many countries. The Federal Reserve last week already cut interest rates and the UK followed up with its own stimulus package on Wednesday. Amid the uncertainty of how deeply the coronavirus will impact world economies, stock markets worldwide have plummeted.

Washington state has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, with 281 cases as of Wednesday afternoon. Amazon last week reported that one of its employees in its Seattle headquarters tested positive for the virus and was in quarantine. There are currently 1,135 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US.

Separately, Amazon and eBay have been working to prevent price gouging as people buy hand sanitizer, masks and gloves online to protect against the disease. eBay last week said it banned the sale of many of these products to stop price gouging, however it was still easy to find modified listings on the site when searching for "Purell" or "hand gel."

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