by Wesley Stewart
Five years ago, I was living in San Francisco as a homeless young adult. My experiences being homeless are formational to the person I am today.
I currently work at The Mockingbird Society as a veteran of homelessness, fighting to uplift the voices of homeless youth and young adults, and advocate for legislation to end homelessness altogether. Although we do not provide direct services to our homeless neighbors, my work has me engaging with the community, service providers, and officials at the city, county, and state level.
I know the Tax Amazon legislation is critical for Seattle’s unhoused population as well as the social workers who sacrifice their health and safety to serve the community. Amazon is a Seattle-based company and as such, has the responsibility to protect and maintain the well-being of its community like any other Seattleite. For too long Amazon has extracted labor from our neighbors, purchased and occupied Native lands, and manipulated our local government with bottomless buckets of cash.
Amazon contributes to the homelessness crisis by employing thousands of moneyed folks, raising median rental prices, and displacing Black and brown communities that have lived in Seattle for decades. Amazon directly escalates the wealth inequality in our area by buying politicians, depleting municipal budgets, and impeding effective crisis intervention by our government.
But for me, Tax Amazon is not about retribution, it’s about community solidarity. A small tax on this multi-billion-dollar company could provide monthly checks to low-wage social workers on the front lines of the housing and homelessness crisis. Like health care workers, social workers are public servants fighting COVID-19 in our community with limited personal protective equipment and no space to social-distance. In addition, the tax could be expanded to provide funds for homeless folks to afford food, housing, and lifestyle goods — thus stimulating the local economy and rescuing small businesses.
The federal government has responded to COVID-19 with a one-time check of $1,200 to “some” Americans. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared to suggest this money could sustain folks for 10 weeks. That is a monstrous assertion. For homeless or recently housed young people, they will not receive a check because they did not file their taxes last year. They can’t get a job because of stay-at-home orders. They can’t safely quarantine, nor can they access health services, so the virus will continue to ravage their under-nourished and over-stressed bodies.
As the Trump administration throws pennies at working people, Amazon spent millions lobbying congress for additional benefits. The Guardian reports that Bezos himself has seen his personal wealth grow by $24 billion since the COVID crisis began […]