Feb 9

2022

Amazon subsidies: $4.7 billion and counting

A new report documents how the online behemoth, which operates two distribution centers in WNY, has wrangled subsidies from governments far and wide.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and, at a current value of $1.6 billion, one of the wealthiest companies of any kind on the planet. 

A report released Wednesday by the subsidy watchdog group, Good Jobs First, suggests the retail giant is also in an elite category when it comes to cashing in on taxpayer-funded benefits.

The report, titled “Amazon.com’s Hidden Worldwide Subsidies,” found the company has received $4.7 billion in public subsidies over the past decade to help drive the expansion of its global network of warehouses, distribution centers, office complexes and call centers. 

According to the report, the bulk of the subsidies – about $4.1 billion – supported Amazon projects in the United States, where the company has 110 fulfillment centers

Amazon has two distribution facilities in Western New York,  one in Tonawanda and another in Lancaster. It is reportedly in talks to build a third location, with an estimated value of $49 million, at the Lake Erie Commerce Center in Hamburg. 

Outside the United States, the report determined that Amazon has received at least $600 million in public assistance in more than a dozen countries. Due to “poor disclosure practices in most countries,” the report concludes that the true value of the subsidies is “hidden” and likely much higher. 

The authors of the report, which was generated with help from the UNI Global Union, a pro-labor federation representing 20 million service workers worldwide, call for an end to government subsidies for Amazon. Failing that, the authors suggest greater transparency is needed for projects involving Amazon and its affiliates. 

“There’s no reason for national, regional, state or local governments to help offset Amazon’s costs for operations that are core to its strategy,” said Kenneth Thomas, a research fellow at Good Jobs First. “They should stop providing subsidies to Amazon, and instead use the money to invest in small businesses and public services.”