Amazon launches $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal employees amid coronavirus outbreak

Key Points
  • Amazon said Wednesday it's launching a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers, seasonal workers and other employees amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • The fund applies to delivery service partners and Amazon Flex drivers, as well as seasonal employees.
Amazon Flex Driver
CNBC | Katie Schoolov

Amazon said Wednesday it's launching a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

The "Amazon Relief Fund" will help employees "that are under financial distress during this challenging time," the company said. This includes Amazon Flex drivers and its network of delivery service partners, which handle last-mile package deliveries, as well as seasonal employees, which help the company manage variation in customer demand during peak periods and holidays. 

Amazon will allow these employees to apply for grants that are equal to up to two weeks of pay if they're diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The company also said it will provide up to two weeks of pay to all employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine, effective immediately. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the month of March, which CNBC previously reported

"The health and safety of our employees and contractors around the world continues to be our top priority as we face the challenges associated with COVID-19," said Beth Galetti, Amazon's senior vice president of human resources, in a statement. "Leaders across Amazon are meeting every day to consider the evolving situation and are consulting with medical experts to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our teams healthy."

The company has taken several steps to accommodate employees in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Amazon has already told employees at its Seattle, Bellevue, Bay Area, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Madrid and Italy offices to work from home for the month of March. 

However, unlike employees at Amazon's corporate offices, many fulfillment center employees and delivery drivers cannot carry out their job duties while working from home. Amazon's sprawling fulfillment network, which powers the one-day and two-day delivery customers have come to expect, employs more than 250,000 workers at more than 110 sites across the country. The company also relies, in part, on its own network of delivery service partners and Flex drivers to handle the last mile portion of the delivery process. 

On Sunday, Amazon relaxed its attendance policy for employees who "work from an office, store, fulfillment center, delivery station or sort center" during the month of March. The company informed employees that it will not count any unpaid time (UPT) off should they need to take it.

Additionally, Amazon said it would pay all of its hourly employees that support its offices in Seattle, Bellevue, the Bay Area, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. This includes food service employees, security guards and janitorial staff.

Some employees such as Flex drivers are contract employees, meaning they don't enjoy the same benefits as full-time employees and wouldn't get paid if they didn't show up for work. As the coronavirus spread, Amazon logistics workers circulated a petition calling for the company to put in place more "protective measures," including giving workers paid leave. 

"While Amazon has made some limited coronavirus accommodations, it needs a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of all of its workers and the larger public, including giving workers paid leave and not simply extending our unpaid leave, as was announced recently," the petition states. 

As of Wednesday, there were more than 124,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus globally, and at least 4,589 deaths. There are at least 1,110 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S., and at least 32 deaths. 

Seattle Amazon worker tests positive for coronavirus
Seattle Amazon worker tests positive for coronavirus