Local governments across the San Francisco Bay Area have issued “shelter in place” orders to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed over 100 Americans and infected thousands more. As businesses are forced to close, wage workers are being laid off or else facing massive drops in income.
One area hotel worker summed up her situation bluntly on Monday to the Mercury News: “We don’t have any income to pay our rent or bills.”
Meanwhile, employees at tech giants in the Bay Area, Seattle and elsewhere, who have been working from home for some time, will be remote for the foreseeable future. And their Silicon Valley benefactors are taking new steps to sweeten that deal.
On Tuesday, The Information reported that Facebook planned to pay all 45,000 full-time employees an extra $1,000 to mitigate the detrimental financial effects of the new coronavirus. What’s more, the employees will receive an “exceeds expectations” rating in their performance reviews, entitling them to further bonuses based on their salaries. (Google was moving to delay performance reviews, Business Insider reported Wednesday.)
The median salary at Facebook was $228,651 last year.
Other organizations within the Zuckerberg empire will benefit from an emergency cash infusion as well. Employees at the for-profit Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which is putting funds towards increasing the availability of coronavirus testing, will receive a $1,000 bonus, and CZI will match their coronavirus-related donations 3:1, a spokesperson for the company told The Daily Beast. The Zuckerberg family’s personal security staff will also receive “financial support,” according to a spokesperson for the family who did not specify the amount.
On the other hand, Facebook’s hourly contractors, from content moderators to campus chefs to shuttle drivers—many of whom are unable to work from home—are still receiving pay while not at work, but won’t receive the extra cash, the The Intercept reported. The company has pledged $100 million to small businesses struggling with the aftereffects of the coronavirus. Like other tech platforms, it has also struggled to promote authoritative information over coronavirus conspiracies and nonsense that have flooded the internet. On Tuesday night, it suffered a setback when its AI systems were at least briefly marking news about the deadly illness as spam, as the Verge reported.
Facebook may have made the largest public offering of a coronavirus bonus. But the company was not alone in Silicon Valley—and the wider tech world—in offering private-sector stimulus packages.
Cloud computing giant Salesforce was offering $250 to each employee to “make the work from home situation more comfortable,” a spokeswoman told The Daily Beast; that benefit is separate from the $200 that Salesforce allots for employees to purchase noise-cancelling headphones. The human resources software company Workday also reportedly planned to give out two additional weeks pay to every employee. And the personal storage site Box was doling out what a spokeswoman called “a small amount” to employees to set up home offices; a poster on the social network Blind, which requires people to sign up with verified work email addresses, claimed the company was giving $300 to each employee.
For its part, the jobs-listing site Indeed, based in Austin, has offered $500 in reimbursement for work-from-home expenses to each employee, a spokesperson confirmed. And the San-Francisco-based Cash App, made by Jack Dorsey’s Square, appeared to just be giving away money—or at least dangling it—to those who replied to its Twitter account.
Facebook’s fellow tech giants—Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—did not respond to requests for comment on whether they were providing similar monetary assistance to their workforces. All four asked employees to work from home as the severity of the outbreak came into sharper focus.
Many tech companies have massive cash reserves on hand that allow them to compensate employees without eating into their revenue to a prohibitive degree—Facebook had $52 billion as of December; Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), and Microsoft have more than $100 billion apiece.
Without such beneficent employers, tens of millions of Americans were left to wait for action in Washington. The federal government was at work on an economic stimulus package that could exceed $1 trillion, including possible direct payments to individuals sometime this spring.