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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that he would start a $2 billion fund to combat homelessness and set up preschools in low-income neighborhoods. (Photo: National Museum of American History/Flickr/cc)

After Pressuring Seattle to Forgo Corporate Tax to Fund Affordable Housing, Bezos Commits Fraction of $163B Fortune to Help Homeless

"The biggest statement Mr. Bezos could make is by raising the pay of workers in his own company. Philanthropy will not solve income inequality or stagnant wages."

Julia Conley

More than a year after he requested proposals from the general public for philanthropic initiatives that he could put a portion of his $163 billion fortune toward, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—the world's wealthiest person—unveiled the idea he'd come up with: a $2 billion fund to help the homeless and establish a network of schools for low-income communities.

The tech founder's plan was slammed as amounting to far less than what he could easily afford to do for communities that are struggling, especially after Amazon pressured the city of Seattle out of passing a corporate tax that would have funded affordable housing for the city where the company's headquarters has contributed to its sky-rocketing home prices—a tax that could have alleviated some of the need for the homeless shelters Bezos's initiative will help.

On social media Thursday, Bezos announced his plan to launch the Day One Families Fund, which will award annual grants to groups that provide housing and food to homeless families, as well as the Day One Academies Fund, which will establish preschools to serve low-income children.

In keeping with Bezos's self-described "genuine, intense customer obsession," the CEO wrote, "the child will be the customer" in his new endeavor.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) was among the critics who drew attention to reports that Amazon mistreats its employees—with many launching health and safety complaints due to overwork—who receive a median salary of $28,000 per year.

"The biggest statement Mr. Bezos could make is by raising the pay of workers in his own company," Khanna told The Guardian. "Philanthropy will not solve income inequality or stagnant wages. Raising wages like Henry Ford did in 1914 would make a dent."

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