Jeff Bezos vowed $100M to Maui after fires, but no one knows where it went

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS



Jeff Bezos made a splashy $100 million pledge to help rebuild Maui after it was devastated by wildfires in August — though local officials and nonprofits alike are reportedly puzzled about where the funds may have gone.

In the five months since the Hawaiian town of Lahaina was battered by flames, the billionaire and his fiancée, Lauren Sanchez, have given $15.5 million to the Bezos Maui Fund, a spokesperson for Bezos confirmed to The Post.

“In addition, we’ve announced the Lahaina Day One Academy, which is being done outside of the $100 million commitment because the Day One Academy was in the works before the tragedy in Lahaina,” the spokesperson added.

According to the preschool’s website, an opening date has yet to be announced. When the school is ready for sessions, eligible three- and four-year-olds will be selected via a lottery process.

The spokesperson declined to specify any other individual or organizations that received the $15.5 million in funds, only sharing that “Jeff and Lauren continue to be personally engaged.”

Local organizations also don’t know where the money went, according to Bloomberg.

Jeff Bezos and his fiancée, Lauren Sanchez, have given $15.5 million to the Bezos Maui Fund since August — a fraction of the $100 million the couple pledged to help the Hawaiian towns devastated by wildfires. Instagram/Jeff Bezos

“Nobody’s heard anything at all,” Angus McKelvey, the state senator representing West Maui, told Bloomberg, adding that he feels let down by the lack of information and collaboration.

“Had they simply consulted with the community and myself and other representatives, we would’ve told them, ‘Take your money and put it over here,’” McKelvey said.

Trisha Kehaulani Watson, the vice president of native Hawaiian nonprofit ‘Āina Momona, also told the outlet that the organization has yet to receive any of the money.

Watson also said she’s unaware of anyone in her network of nonprofits who has received a dime from Bezos.

At least six other nonprofits working on the island in the wake of the fires, including the Maui United Way and the People’s Fund of Maui, also told Bloomberg they haven’t received funds from Bezos and Sanchez.

Local officials and Maui-based nonprofit organizations are puzzled at where Bezos’ multimillion-dollar donation has gone. Though some speculated it went to the Hawaii Community Foundation, the group confirmed to Bloomberg that they “don’t have any information” on Bezos’ pledge. NYPJ

Some speculated to the outlet that the money went to the Hawaii Community Foundation, which has raised more than $177 million for its Maui Strong Fund, but a representative for the group said they “don’t have any information” on Bezos’s pledge, though they did receive a $2 million donation in September from the foundation started by Bezos’ parents, according to Bloomberg.

As for the remaining $84.5 million Bezos vowed to donate to help Maui, a spokesperson told The Post that those funds “will be distributed in the coming years as the continuing needs reveal themselves.”

Alice Lee, chair of the Maui County Council has told Time Magazine that recovery efforts on Hawaii’s second-largest island have been “painstakingly slow” because of how time-consuming it’s been to wade through miles of ashes.

All the while, Bezos has been building out his 14-acre Hawaiian estate, which he shelled out $78 million for in 2021.

The one-of-a-kind La Perouse Bay estate is located on the island of Maui, though it was not located near the site of the wildfires, which claimed the lives of 36 people and left hundreds of others injured and homeless.

Bezos has historically been vague about his philanthropic efforts, promising to give away the majority of his wealth during a CNN interview last fall, but failing to specify how much of his $178 billion fortune he’ll gift to charity over his lifetime.

Since that interview, Bezos has added more than $52 billion to his net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which lists him as the world’s second-richest person behind Elon Musk.

Bezos’ ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, meanwhile, has donated a staggering $16.5 billion since her 2019 divorce from Bezos and very explicitly lists the recipients of her gifts on her organization’s website. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In 2020, he also created the Bezos Earth Fund, which he reportedly established under the guise that the Amazon founder would make the largest philanthropic commitment ever — $10 billion — to fight climate change and protect nature.

The Fund’s website says that Bezos has committed $1.84 billion to seven programs with more than 190 grants thus far across the environmental justice, decarbonization, economics and finance markets, among others, though again — the site doesn’t specify which nonprofits received the endowments.

A year after establishing the Bezos Earth Fund, the Amazon founder launched the Courage & Civility Award, which has given $100 million grants to political analyst Van Jones, celebrity chef Jose Andrés and Dolly Parton to distribute to other nonprofit organizations.

Bezos has boasted that the award requires little accountability of its recipients, according to Bloomberg.

“No bureaucracy, no committees, they just do what they want,” Bezos told a crowd in Van Horn, Texas, for the 2021 annual Courage & Civility Awards while donning a Blue Origin space suit.

Bezos’ Day One Fund, however, which was created in 2018 with a $2 billion donation from the Amazon founder, does share more nuanced information about where financial sums have been handed out to help families move from unsheltered homelessness and shelters to permanent housing.

Bezos has historically been vague about his philanthropy. After vowing to donate most of his fortune in a 2022 CNN interview, he hasn’t made any strides towards doing so. All the while, his net worth has gained more than $52 billion. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The 60-year-old’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, meanwhile, has donated a staggering $16.5 billion since her 2019 divorce from Bezos and very explicitly lists the recipients of the nearly 2,000 gifts she’s given out in a spreadsheet that denotes the recipient, donation amount and even what the gift is to be used for.

More than 360 organizations last year alone received money from Scott, 53, via her philanthropic organization, Yield Giving.

Bezos has donated more than $3 billion over the same period, Bloomberg reported, though that’s far off of the sum he’s promised to give away.

Representatives for Bezos at Amazon and the Bezos Earth Fund did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.



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