When the initial statewide stay-home order went out in mid-March, Amazon employees had already been working from home for a few weeks, as the tech giant took a cautious approach to the new coronavirus pandemic. As the novelty has worn off and businesses remain closed, employees at Amazon and other Seattle-based companies became accustomed to working at home — an adjustment that could be in place until next year.
With Amazon’s recent announcement that employees can continue to work from home until January 8, 2021, other companies have also extended their remote working policies, including Zillow and Microsoft. Workers at these companies are improving their home offices and holding meetings over Zoom, but employees of other local Seattle businesses may not be able to adjust so easily.
Most notably, businesses including restaurants and bars in the downtown corridor surrounding the Amazon campus that used to cater to tech employees are finding it difficult to stay afloat. Much of their business used to come from heavy foot traffic from workers in nearby offices, and now they must weather the storm as corporate offices remain closed.
In an ill omen, local restauranteur Tom Douglas was forced to permanently close two of his restaurants — Brave Horse Tavern and Cuoco — that used to serve the Amazon campus.
To offset the burden faced by smaller businesses, Amazon has reportedly disbursed more than $11 million in cash grants and free rent through its Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund. The fund is dedicated to helping businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue that are located within a few blocks of Amazon’s offices in Seattle’s South Lake Union and in Downtown Bellevue. The benefits from the fund have been distributed to over 900 businesses.