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Sawant wants Seattle big business tax by June to aid coronavirus relief

Councilmember Kshama Sawant's big business tax legislation would generate $200 million in relief for people struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

SEATTLE — Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced plans Wednesday to expedite amended legislation to tax Amazon and other big businesses starting this year and use the money for coronavirus relief. 

Sawant said the legislation, which is co-sponsored by Councilmember Tammy Morales of District 2, would bring in approximately $500 million in revenue a year using a 1.3% payroll tax on the city's largest businesses. 

The payroll tax would impact the top 2% of the city's biggest companies with annual payrolls greater than $7 million, which equates to around 800 of Seattle's nearly 23,000 companies.

The other 98% of businesses, including nonprofits, public employers, small businesses, and grocery stores, would be exempt.

But rather than the legislation taking effect in January 2021 as originally proposed, Sawant wants the tax to start on June 1, 2020, to generate $200 million in relief for people struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

The money would support up to 100,000 households with $500 payments per month over four months this year, according to a release from Sawant and Morales. 

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The emergency cash assistance would be distributed to households currently enrolled in existing assistance programs, like the Emergency Grocery Voucher Program, and also to low-income households. 

The funds would also help those who are unemployed or had their work hours reduced due to coronavirus; seniors; immigrants and refugees; and people experiencing homelessness.

Starting in 2021, 75% of the anticipated revenue would go towards developing and acquiring affordable housing. The additional 25% of the tax revenue would support Seattle's Green New Deal. 

When the legislation was first introduced on March 4, Sawant proposed a 0.7% payroll tax that would generate $300 million in revenue. 

The new draft legislation will be formally introduced to City Council on April 6 during the Full Council meeting.

RELATED: Councilmember Kshama Sawant unveils legislation to tax Amazon, big Seattle businesses