March 29, 2023

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Billionaire Tom Steyer responds to coronavirus backlash by planning a food bank

into fighting the coronaviruspandemic.

In an interview last week, Mr Steyer told The Independent: “To me, this is a political question and so that’s what we’ve been focused on. To push as hard as possible to understanding the most vulnerable people as always will be hit the hardest and to make sure that the response reaches them directly.”

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A spokesperson for the former candidate told The Independent that more news was coming on Mr Steyer’s plans “in the next day or so” but that a food bank drive will be launched shortly for low-income families under financial stress from Covid-19.

Mr Steyer, 62, spent more than $300m on his presidential bid which ended last month after he came third in the South Carolina primary.

He is worth an estimated $1.6bn from his hedge-fund career which he ended a decade ago to focus on politics and the environment.

His former Democratic opponent, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who spent close to a billion dollars funding in his short-lived campaign for the White House, has committed $40m to fighting coronavirus.

Billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, has made a donation to help cover salaries of arena staff.

When asked about Mr Steyer and other political big spenders, Mr Cuban told the Daily Beast: “They should do what they think is right. Not up to me to judge.”

Forbes has been tallying the response of the world’s richest to Covid-19.

Mr Steyer made his money in private equity and established Farallon Capital after moving to San Francisco in the eighties. His wealth was partly built on investing in fossil fuels.

He cashed out in 2012 to focus on politics and the environment, setting up NextGen America in 2013.

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Mr Steyer, his wife, Kat Taylor and four children live in the uber-wealthy San Francisco neighbourhood of Sea Cliff, beloved for its sweeping views of the Pacific.

As of today, the US has 143,055 cases and 2,513 deaths, including 132 in California and 48 in the Bay Area.

(Getty Images)

He said last week that he was taking the advice of health authorities in California when it comes to social distancing and that the response to the coronavirus had lessons on how we should respond to climate change.

He said: ”I’ve been trying to be careful as a good citizen to make sure that [I’m] not getting infected and infecting other people.

“I was talking to an old friend of mine who’s a conservative Republican this morning. I said to him, ‘Mike, does the coronavirus pandemic show you that denying science and not preparing for things that scientists tell you are overwhelmingly likely or inevitable is a gigantic mistake?’ Silence at the end of the line from him.

“You can’t watch what’s happening with this pandemic and look at the negative response of the Trump administration and not know there’s an absolute parallel to climate where you have to be data-driven, look at the facts and act on them.

“You can’t allow political considerations to come between the facts and your responsibility to protect the health and safety of American citizens. To me, it’s completely comparable.”​

Mr Steyer’s spokesperson also pointed to other ongoing philanthropic efforts amid the outbreak.

​​These include the Beneficial State Bank, which Mr Steyer founded with his wife, which has “removed fees on many products” and offers “savings up to $200 per month for all bank clients on household expenses”.

“Tom and Kat have invested over $100 million into the bank, and of course do not profit from it” the rep said.

They are also working with ReGenesis, a community development corporation in South Carolina, “in the frontline communities where both climate and Covid19 hit disproportionately hard”.

Other actions include setting up off-season farmer’s markets at their TomKat Ranch and working with trade associations to support community banks for small businesses.

Mr Steyer said: “I have been trying as hard as possible to figure out the best way to do that in terms of giving money to specific things.

“We’re looking at $1tn response by the federal government, that is the size of what we need to see.

“The size of the problem requires federal response and the responsibility of every citizen, from my standpoint, is to push as hard as possible to make sure that response is fair to the people of the United States which is what I’ve been focusing on. To try to make sure that response treats the most vulnerable amongst us fairly.”

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