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2 Things Facebook Is Doing in Response to Coronavirus

By Evan Niu, CFA - Mar 18, 2020 at 8:00AM

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The social networking giant wants to help employees and small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to create incredible uncertainty for consumers and businesses alike. Companies across industries are responding in a number of different ways. Facebook (META 7.19%) announced two measures this week that it is implementing in an effort to help during these trying times. Facebook had already canceled its annual F8 developer conference and is trying to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platforms.

Here's what the social networking juggernaut is doing.

Entrance sign to Facebook headquarters

Image source: Facebook.

A $1,000 bonus

This week, Facebook told employees that it was giving everyone a $1,000 bonus to help offset some of the economic uncertainties. Lawmakers and politicians have discussed similar ways to provide relief to workers, which could come in the form of a payroll tax cut or a cash payment. Facebook's head count grew 26% last year to roughly 45,000, according to the company's annual report, suggesting that the initiative should cost at least $45 million.

However, Facebook also employs an army of contractors that serve as content moderators and contribute to platform health. CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted last year that the company has over 35,000 people that work on safety and security. It's unclear whether or not contract workers will be eligible for the bonus.

Employees that get high marks in performance reviews may also be able to get their annual bonuses early, according to The Information.

A $100 million program for small businesses

With small businesses facing particular risks as consumers stay home, Facebook is now offering up to $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for 30,000 eligible small businesses. That money can be used to help pay employees, as well as other overhead expenses like rent or utilizes, as access to credit lines has tightened because financial institutions are also bracing for a possible recession. The company says it will start accepting applications for the program "in the coming weeks."

"We've listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them," COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in announcing the program. "We've heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can't come to work."

Separately, Sandberg told Bloomberg that she expects the advertising industry to be hurt. "This is not going to business as usual, and the marketing industry is certainly going to see a real impact," Sandberg said. "I don't think anyone knows how big."

The efforts are welcome news from one of the largest and most profitable tech companies on the planet. Facebook posted $18.5 billion in net income last year and ended 2019 with $54.9 billion in cash on the balance sheet. Spending a couple hundred million dollars is a drop in the bucket for Facebook, and every little bit will help during the crisis.

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