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COVID-19 Response from Amazon (13 Mar 2020)

The response below from Amazon to the COVID-19 pandemic is useful as an example for other companies to consider. (source)

Amazon’s actions to help customers, communities, and employees affected by COVID-19

A roundup of actions Amazon has taken to reduce the spread of the coronavirus while supporting those directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19.

As a global company, we’re closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19. In addition to those who are affected by the illness, many more are indirectly dealing with changes in their work, school, and community environments. Here are some of the ways Amazon is supporting customers, communities, and employees during this difficult time.

Serving our customers

We believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one, and we want to make sure our customers can get the items they need, when they need them. As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online which has had an impact on how we serve our customers. So in the short term, we are making the decision to temporarily prioritize household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so we can more quickly receive, restock and ship these products to customers. Products already on its way to our fulfillment centers will be accepted. This does not impact products being delivered to customers, or products currently in stock in our store. Customers can continue to buy any in-stock product in our store, and we will continue to deliver them. March 17, 2020.

While Amazon will continue taking orders and shipping items from across our store, customers ordering items they don’t need immediately have the opportunity to help others by choosing No-Rush Shipping when this ship option is available. Selecting the No-Rush option enables us to consolidate orders and make fewer stops in neighborhoods throughout the week, and most importantly, serve customers with the most critical needs first. March 17, 2020.

We’re also working to ensure that no one artificially raises prices on basic need products during this pandemic and have blocked or removed tens of thousands of items, in line with our long-standing policy. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policy.

To protect customers shopping in our physical retail stores, we’ve enhanced our daily cleaning procedures and are implementing additional nightly cleaning. We continue to educate employees on CDC guidance for maintaining healthy habits, and are offering flexibility for employees who need to stay home, plus paid time off for those who are diagnosed with the virus.

Whole Foods Market is temporarily adjusting store hours to accommodate those identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, according to health authorities. Customers who are age 60 and over in the U.S. and Canada, and age 70 and over in the UK, are invited to shop beginning one hour before the store opens to the general public under the store’s new adjusted hours (example: if a store’s new hours are 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., customers who are age 60 and over can shop starting at 8 a.m.). We are setting aside this time to help these customers feel more comfortable shopping our stores and to help ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less crowded environment. March 18, 2020.

Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods Market delivery customers always have the option to select “unattended delivery” during checkout if they prefer not to come into contact with others. Orders not containing alcohol are eligible for unattended delivery, and will be left in a location specified by the customer.

Empowering our customers

In addition to serving our retail customers, we’re making sure Amazon Web Services customers have the tools and support they need to keep their businesses and organizations moving forward safely and efficiently.

AWS is collaborating with public health organizations, government agencies, and businesses around the globe to support their efforts resulting from the ripple effect of COVID-19. This includes providing customers in the most affected regions with technical support and AWS credits that help cover costs, while enabling organizations to quickly stand up and scale their tools and infrastructure to keep businesses running, and speed COVID-19 research projects. More details to be shared in coming days.

We are supporting Amazonians and others who are working from home with AWS services, including virtual desktops in the cloud, frustration-free online meetings with video, and secure content storage and collaboration. AWS also provides services for many healthcare and life sciences companies that are working on research, diagnosis, treatment, and vaccine study to accelerate our collective understanding of COVID-19.

Caring for our employees

We are opening 100,000 new full and part-time positions across the U.S. in our fulfillment centers and delivery network to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public. We also know many people have been economically impacted as jobs in areas like hospitality, restaurants, and travel are lost or furloughed as part of this crisis. We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back. In addition to the 100,000 new roles we’re creating, we want to recognize our employees who are playing an essential role for people at a time when many of the services that might normally be there to support them are closed. In the U.S., we will be adding an additional $2 USD per hour worked through April from our current rate of $15/hour or more, depending on the region, C$2 in Canada, £2 per hour in the UK, and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries. This commitment to increased pay through the end of April represents an investment of over $350 million in increased compensation for hourly employees across the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Read more. March 16, 2020.

In light of ongoing international COVID-19 developments, we now recommend that all global employees who work in a role that can be done from home, do so through the end of March. Every team is different and not all jobs are conducive to working from home. Employees and partners whose work requires their physical presence in their workplace, have access to all of their usual paid and unpaid time-off benefits. March 12, 2020.

All Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay. This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost income. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March. Read more. March 11, 2020.

We are establishing the Amazon Relief Fund, with a $25 million initial contribution, focused on supporting our independent delivery service partners and their drivers, Amazon Flex participants, and seasonal employees under financial distress during this challenging time. We will be offering all of these groups the ability to apply for grants approximately equal to up to two weeks of pay if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. Going forward, this fund will support our employees and contractors around the world who face financial hardships from other qualifying events, such as a natural disaster, a federally declared emergency, or an unforeseen personal hardship. Applicants may apply and receive a personal grant from the fund ranging from $400 to $5,000 per person. Read more. March 11, 2020.

We paused our fulfillment center public tours program, cancelled large events, and changed the majority of our job interviews to virtual interviews rather than in-person interviews, which often require travel. At the same time, we increased our cleaning of all facilities globally, including regular sanitization of all door handles, stairway handrails, elevator buttons, lockers, and touch screens. February 28, 2020.

Supporting our community

Amazon has donated $1 million to kick-start emergency COVID-19 response funds that will immediately benefit the four largest Washington D.C. region community foundations that are working to support vulnerable populations impacted amid the coronavirus outbreak. The donation will be used to provide resources to organizations working with communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the outbreak—including hourly workers, people experiencing homelessness, and the elderly. Amazon is also providing additional cash and in-kind support to five food service providers in the Washington D.C. region. Read more. March 18, 2020.

We created a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide cash grants to Seattle-area small businesses that need assistance to get through economic challenges related to COVID-19. The fund is intended for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue. Businesses with a physical presence within a few blocks of Amazon’s office buildings in the Denny Regrade and South Lake Union areas, that are open to the general public, and are reliant on foot traffic for customers, are eligible for the grants. This should help small businesses continue to retain and pay their employees, stay current on rent, and cover other fixed costs related to their operations. Additionally, we are subsidizing two full months of rent for tenants in the buildings Amazon owns. Read more. March 10, 2020.

Amazon contributed $1 million to a new Seattle Foundation fund for community members affected by COVID-19. The fund will provide flexible resources to nonprofits and community-based organizations working with those who are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and the economic consequences of the outbreak. Initial grants will support organizations helping those who don’t have sick leave or health insurance, medically fragile individuals, and healthcare workers. Read more. March 9, 2020.

We are continuing to pay all hourly staff who work for the service providers that support our offices around the world—from food-service workers to security guards to janitorial staff. March 6, 2020.

Now and always, our Amazon Future Engineer program is focused on increasing access to computer science education for hundreds of thousands of students and teachers. As classrooms across the U.S. experience educational disruption during the pandemic, Amazon Future Engineer will initially provide free access to our sponsored computer science courses in the United States. These courses are for independent learners from 6th to 12th grade, or teachers who are teaching remotely to this age group. Through this free Amazon Future Engineer access, teachers will have access to online professional development to support their work. Amazon Future Engineer and our curriculum partners, Edhesive, will grant teachers and students access shortly after they complete their applications, which can be found at amazonfutureengineer.com. March 15, 2020.

We’re leveraging our fulfillment network to support nonprofits and relief organizations in the Puget Sound area that are on the front lines of the outbreak. We are donating gift cards and helping to purchase items on Amazon.com on behalf of the organizations who are time-strapped managing the crisis. Items donated in-kind from Amazon include baby food and wipes, school supplies, clothing, and hygiene products. This enables nonprofits and relief organizations to respond quickly to the changing and immediate needs of the community members.

We’ve also reached out to, and are helping, our communities around the globe. In China, for example, we leveraged our fulfillment network to donate millions of items—such as medical isolation suits, protective masks, disposable gloves, and other medical supplies—to healthcare professionals in affected cities. We’ll share more updates in days to come.

You can get the latest information about Amazon’s response to COVID-19 by bookmarking this page, and by following @AmazonNews on Twitter.

[Date: 13 Mar 2020. Posted: 20 Mar 2020.]

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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