Morales, Sawant propose acceleration of business tax for coronavirus relief

Apr 1, 2020, 1:13 PM
Kshama Sawant, business tax...
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Seattle Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant announced legislation Wednesday to accelerate the tax on big business and Amazon to fund low-income, working-class households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed tax would provide up to $200 million in relief for up to 100,000 households.

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The two councilmembers previously announced a legislative package on March 4, before the coronavirus outbreak hit Seattle hard, to tax the top two percent of Seattle’s for-profit businesses, measured by the size of corporate payroll starting in 2021. The revenue would be generated through a 1.3 percent excise tax on companies with payrolls greater than $7 million a year.

Now, the proposal would start the tax on June 1, 2020. For the remainder of the year, the funds would be put toward emergency coronavirus relief for low-incoming households impacted by the pandemic. Starting in 2021, the funds would be applied to social housing and a Green New Deal, as originally proposed.

“Now, more than ever, this city’s politicians need to tax big business to address the unprecedented economic collapse working families are now facing,” Sawant said. “After the pandemic has ended, the tax must be continued to fund social housing and the Green New Deal, and create thousands of jobs during what will be a deep recession.”

Morales said that unemployment rates could reach 30 percent nationwide, while claims for unemployment benefits in Washington state alone are up by 843 percent.

“Every day, I receive dozens of emails and phone calls from district residents seeking help because they lost their small business, or their entire household lost their jobs,” she said. ” … We know our existing resources are not enough, we must act swiftly to provide relief.”

The new proposal would give cash payments of $500, for a total of $2,000, to low-income households and individuals, prioritized to seniors, immigrants, refugees, homeless individuals, working people who have lost their income, and others who typically experience barriers to government support.

“We know that $500 a month will not cover rent fully; but it can help buy groceries or diapers or help cover health care costs,” Morales said.

The new legislation will be formally introduced to the full City Council on April 6.

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Sawant had previously proposed using the Tax Amazon fund for coronavirus relief earlier in March. Thousands of Seattleites have since signed a petition to demand that the City Council pass the big business tax for emergency relief, then continue the tax for its original purpose after the crisis.

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Morales, Sawant propose acceleration of business tax for coronavirus relief