Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, on Thursday pledged $2 billion to combat homelessness and build preschools in low-income neighborhoods.
The Bezos Day One Fund will award grants to organizations and civic groups engaged in “compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support” to young families, as well as fund a network of “Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities,” Bezos said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession,” Bezos wrote. “The child will be the customer.”
The $2 billion pledge, Bezos’ largest known philanthropic donation to date, represents about 1.2 percent of the CEO’s total net worth, which the Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts at $164 billion.
The announcement comes as Amazon chooses among 20 North American cities vying for its second headquarters, a project expected to bring 50,000 jobs and $5 billion investment. The company has said a winner will be named by the end of the year.
Bezos is slated to make an appearance Thursday night at an Economic Club of Washington event. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser plan to attend, while Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had to drop out to oversee preparations for Hurricane Florence. All three are home to sites on Amazon’s “HQ2” shortlist.
Amazon strongly opposed a new tax on businesses in its home city of Seattle earlier this year that would have raised funds to address affordable housing and homelessness. The company said the tax “forces us to question our growth here,” and the Seattle City Council later voted to repeal it.
Bezos has previously supported scholarships for college students brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as well as efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.