As Seattle's largest employer, Amazon will pay more money than any other company when the city imposes its "head tax" in January to fund homelessness outreach. The City Council essentially declared all-out war on the tech companies that have made Seattle such a Mecca for hip young people seeking cool jobs.
But as the big Seattle companies, which are among the biggest in the USA and the world, are criticizing the legislation, supporters of the law, such as workers unions and church groups, said the tax would help the critical housing situation of the city, as the income gap increases and makes it more hard for the working class to pay rent.
The debate over who should pay to solve a city housing crisis exacerbated by Seattle's rapid economic growth comes after weeks of tense exchanges, raucous meetings and a threat by Amazon, the city's largest employer, to stop construction planning on a 17-story building near its hometown headquarters.
Fueled by a population boom in recent years - its second such boom in the last decade - Seattle is now running into the same problem faced by its contemporaries: a lack of affordable housing.
"If Amazon were serious about its support for strong affordable housing solutions, it would fully back this tax proposal and chip in to help address Seattle's homelessness crisis", the letter said. "Those are the jobs that will leave first due to this tax". Amazon, with 45,000 workers, would take the biggest hit.
Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant said May 14 of the tax: "I do think that this is is a massive victory, that in the face of Amazon and Jeff Bezos saying "no" to any tax, any tax we pass today would be a massive victory". It is estimated that firms which generate revenues amounting to over $20 million per year would end up paying around $500 for every employee yearly. "So I do not think this [temporarily halting construction] is a maneuver". "Mary's Place is helping me find a job and makes sure my son gets to the preschool he adores", one recipient of services there says on the website, "I don't know what I would do without them".
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The tax was approved by Seattle's city council on Monday at $275 per employee per year, according to the Seattle Times.
"This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside".
The tax will raise roughly $47 million a year for affordable housing and emergency services such as shelter beds. The Council could start by reconsidering its strict zoning regulations that contribute to the rise in housing costs. The company paused construction, seemingly as a show of force, before the vote.
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Almost 600 high-grossing employers - about 3 percent of all Seattle businesses - would pay the tax starting in 2019.
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