Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Jeff Bezos launches $2 billion fund for homeless

Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon, speaks at the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Forum on Leadership in Dallas, Texas, U.S., April 20, 2018. The wealth that Bezos has amassed hasn't come without controversy, as many critics point to poor working conditions at his facilities while others say he doesn't do enough for the public good.

In a Thursday tweet and an address before 1,000-plus people in Washington, D.C., Bezos pledged $2 billion of his fortune toward preschool programs in low-income communities and providing food and shelter for homeless families. Previous to the creation of the Day One Fund, Bezos and his family had donated only $135 million to charities, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a nonprofit providing scholarships for the children of parents who immigrated the USA illegally and most recently to a bi-partisan organization that gives campaign support to veterans running for political office. "If our own great-grandchildren don't have lives better than ours, something has gone very wrong", said Bezos in a statement shared on Twitter.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook a decade after Bezos created Amazon, said three years ago that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, would eventually give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares - worth $45 billion at the time - to efforts including eliminating "all disease in our children's lifetime". And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has held Bezos up as an example of a leader of a company that does not pay its workers enough. "Most important of those will be genuine, intense customer obsession".

A separate "Academies Fund" would open and operate "a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities", he wrote. A 10-figure gift to homelessness and early education helps raise awareness for these causes and can inspire other foundations and donors to act. It is a contrast to the long view that Bezos has preached at Amazon and Blue Origin, the space-travel technology company he has been funding with $1 billion a year through the sale of Amazon stock.

Bezos declined to discuss his conversations with Trump and said he doesn't feel the need to defend his company from attacks.

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Trump has described The Washington Post as Amazon's "chief lobbyist".

"The media", Mr. Bezos added, "is going to be fine".

"It's unsafe to demonize the media", Bezos said. We're going to be obsessively, compulsively focused on the child.

The private non-profit foundation in its 2016 tax filing reported almost $46 million United States in assets, and giving away $30 million USA in grants support its missions in early education, K-12 schools reform and youth leadership development and scholarships.

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