The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 2

May 2020

A Critical Lifeline in a Time of Need

By on May 17, 2020


A driver for Amazon makes a delivery.

Like all companies, we at Amazon are adjusting to a new uncertain world turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis. We’re focusing our response in four areas.  As one of many companies that are providing essential services, we are focused first and foremost on keeping our employees safe. 

We are keeping hundreds of thousands of Americans working and hiring thousands more. We’re using our scale and technology to find ways to help by launching testing initiatives and donating resources to people in the communities where we operate. And we’re making improvements to the shopping experience on behalf of our customers. 

This is just the beginning, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help. 

Keeping our employees safe
Online shopping is the safest option for both customers and employees because it dramatically limits interaction between people on both sides of the equation. Since the crisis began, we have aggressively and quickly worked to ensure the safety of our teams by making regular, critical updates to our processes to ensure we can continue delivering items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, groceries, and medical supplies. We’ve made more than 150 process updates to help protect employees—from enhanced facility cleaning and social distancing measures to piloting new disinfectant techniques such as spraying and UV light robots. We’ve delivered personal protective gear to our employees and implemented thermal temperature checks across our operations worldwide. 

We are keeping hundreds of thousands of Americans working and hiring thousands more.

Additionally, we are working on building scalable testing for all employees, including those showing no symptoms. Regular testing on a global scale across all industries would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running. But, for this to work we as a society would need much more testing capacity than is currently available. We’ve begun the work of building incremental testing capacity. A team of Amazonians with a variety of skills – from research scientists and program managers to procurement specialists and software engineers – have moved from their normal day jobs onto a dedicated team to work on this initiative. We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab.

Keeping hundreds of thousands of Americans working, and continuing to hire
In March and April, we announced plans to — and have now hired — 175,000 people in our fulfillment and delivery network in response to increased customer demand and to assist existing employees. We 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 welcome anyone out of work to join us at Amazon until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back. 

Investing in communities
Amazon has ramped up its philanthropic and community service efforts to help our neighbors adjust to this new way of life. Initially, we launched a $20 million Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Initiative to accelerate COVID-19 research, and Jeff Bezos personally committed $100 million to Feeding America. We’ve donated $20 million in Amazon devices globally to those in need, giving Seattle Public School students 8,200 laptops and more to come, much more. 

AWS plays an important role in this crisis. The ability for organizations to access scalable, dependable and highly secure computing power—whether for vital healthcare work, to help students continue learning, or to keep employees productive at home—is critical. Governments are leveraging AWS to build out new capabilities in their efforts to end this pandemic. Last month, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training implemented an AWS solution to assist the processing of unemployment insurance claims for state residents in just 10 days, getting much needed benefits to citizens more quickly.

A grocery associate assists a customer at Whole Foods

Working on behalf of customers
Our customers can also be sure we’re working on their behalf as well. We’ve made changes to improve the changed shopping experience during the pandemic. We keep our Whole Foods Markets open and clean and now provide masks to all shoppers, so they can safely access fresh food and other essential goods. We created an “unattended delivery” option for those who get their groceries online. We’re focused on the highest priority items to ensure fast delivery of essential products like household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products that can help our customers weather this new reality. 

We have stopped more than 500,000 price gougers and suspended more than 6,000 sellers around the world associated with COVID-19 price gouging.

While price gouging has been an issue for all retailers during the crisis, Amazon customers can be sure they are getting products for a fair price. We have stopped more than 500,000 price gougers and suspended more than 6,000 sellers around the world associated with COVID-19 price gouging. Amazon is also partnering with law enforcement agencies to hold these price gougers accountable, and has handed over information about price gougers to 42 state attorneys general thus far. We are dedicated to stamping out this exploitative activity.

For the past two decades, Amazon and our workers have built an infrastructure to deliver goods quickly and reliably. We are proud of the role we play to ease the pain of this pandemic, serving as a lifeline for millions of consumers and small businesses worldwide. We will continue to rise to meet the challenge posed by COVID-19 by innovating and investing in our people, our customers, and the communities we call home.

Steve Hartell

Steve Hartell is the Head of Congressional Affairs at Amazon.

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