Proponents filed an initiative to tax large businesses on March 19 amid a coronavirus outbreak that threatens the city’s finances.
The “Tax Amazon” initiative is structured the same as another effort pushed forward at the City Council-level by councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales. Both are expected to raise at least $300 million per year by levying a 0.7 percent tax on payroll for the largest 3 percent of businesses in Seattle. Nonprofits, cooperatives and small businesses would be excluded.
That money would go primarily toward social housing to alleviate Seattle’s affordable housing crunch. Approximately 25 percent would be directed toward making existing homes environmentally friendly.
The push comes as the city grinds to a halt in the face of the coronavirus, an extremely contagious disease. State and local officials banned large gatherings in March and encouraged workers to work from home if possible, causing a major drop in business revenues and subsequent taxes.
The state attorney general and law enforcement officers warn Washingtonians against scammers seeking to take advantage of people trying to stay educated and help their neighbors during an unprecedented health crisis.
King County Sheriff’s community engagement specialists posted updates on social media site Nextdoor warning people against fraudulent coronavirus maps and tracking apps loaded with malware and ransomware meant to steal personal information and extort money from people.
The map appears to be a mockup of a legitimate map put out by Johns Hopkins University.
“These are just two examples of how seemingly helpful resources can be used to compromise your personal information and data,” wrote Pierre La Rose, a community engagement specialist, in a post.
La Rose recommended using known websites, like cdc.gov, and exercising caution when looking for information about the coronavirus.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman also sent out notices telling people to be careful when giving money to organizations.
“In this unprecedented situation, many of us are searching for ways to help,” Ferguson said. “Unfortunately, scammers look for ways to prey on Washingtonians’ goodwill.”
Ferguson encouraged people to alert him to potentially fraudulent solicitations.
There are straightforward steps to protect yourself against a scammer. Be suspicious of high-pressure requests that demand a commitment in the moment.
Legitimate charities are registered with the Secretary of State at www.sos.wa.gov/charities. There, you can see financial records and tax status. You can also call the Charities Program at (800) 322-4483.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Mar. 25-31, 2020 issue.