When our local, state and federal governments fail, Americans are at risk.
Historically, charitable organizations have done the bulk of the work needed to address mounting humanitarian crises. Today, corporations are pitching in, as well.
Exhibit One: Microsoft is pledging $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing across the Puget Sound region. Most of the money will be aimed at increasing housing options for low- and middle-income workers — workers who “teach our kids in schools, and put out the fires in our houses and keep us alive in the hospital,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.
“Seattle’s homelessness crisis has been years in the making, and its roots run deep, touching racial inequity, economic disparities, mental health treatment, rising housing costs, mental health, addiction, and so much more. We have a responsibility to be honest that this crisis won’t go away overnight. Lasting, meaningful progress will take years. But we still must act – and are acting – to improve life in Seattle.” – Mayor Jenny Durkan
McKinsey & Company estimated that about 14,000 affordable units are required to address the region’s homelessness crisis.
The pledge is the largest in the company’s 44-year history, and one of the heftiest contributions by a private corporation to housing. In the grand scheme, Microsoft can afford to do this and more. The company is sitting on $135 billion in cash reserves.
Exhibit Two: Members of the U.S. Coastguard have been out of work for nearly a month, along with 800,000 federal workers.
San Antonio-based USAA has donated $15 million to a Coast Guard relief organization, which will make interest-free loans to Coast Guard personnel who are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance will begin making loans to personnel starting today. Service members with dependents will be eligible for loans of up to $1,000, while those without children will be able to borrow as much as $750.
It’s easy to be cavalier about these corporate contributions. The investment delivers positive PR for the companies, and maybe, greater loyalty from a certain set of existing customers. But, we’re all conditioned to question a corporation’s intentions. Does Microsoft truly care about the housing crisis that it helped to create and perpetuate? Will their considerable charitable giving wash their sins away?
Putting cynicism aside for a moment, I think it’s good that companies (also known as groups of people working towards a common goal) are taking action and making positive contributions to society. At the end of the day, people will benefit from these acts of corporate concern and giving.
I wish the need for these actions wasn’t as pressing as it is today, but the costs of modern life are pressing down on us due to a mix of factors, including gross negligence in our public sector.
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