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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on basic income, N95 masks


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff thinks that the recent round of coronavirus stimulus checks is a sign that a universal basic income will play a role in America’s future.

“I think that basic income will be part of our future, we can see the need for that right now, there will be other needs for that as well, and we can learn from this. This is a major test we’re running in our own country,” Benioff said in a video interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday.

As part of a $2 trillion stimulus package, the US government began sending checks for up to $1,200 for qualified Americans earlier this year. Benioff said he wishes that when the government sent the money, it also sent Americans a package of 10 N95 filtration masks to help them protect against the coronavirus. 

His comments come during a conversation with the Washington Post about how the coronavirus crisis will change the way people work and live in the future.

Benioff has previously been outspoken with his views on how to best handle ending the coronavirus crisis. He tweeted an “8 point plan” with steps including wearing masks, to tackle the problem of reopening the economy in March. Also in March, Benioff made a 90-day pledge to conduct no layoffs at the company, and called on other CEOs to join him.

Benioff, who has a long history of being vocal on social and political issues, has touted his belief that business is the greatest platform for change. Salesforce has taken steps including sourcing and donating $25 million worth of personal protective equipment for medical personnel, while also releasing a new suite of tools to help businesses safely reopen their physical offices

In the Washington Post interview on Wednesday, he said the US should look to countries that have dealt with pandemics before, like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong or China, to learn how to contain it quickly. “They wear masks, they wash their hands, they use information technology to limit the spread,” Benioff said. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not initially tell people to wear masks, but in April changed its recommendations based on new evidence. The US has faced shortages of personal protective equipment for doctors and medical workers on the front lines of treating those infected with COVID-19. 

This is not the first time Benioff has voiced support for a universal basic income, and many others in tech also support the idea. Former Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang based his campaign on the idea, and had the support of many in Silicon Valley. The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Tesla, and Amazon have previously voiced support for a universal basic income

Benioff previously said artificial intelligence will create “digital refugees” whose jobs will be displaced by AI, according to CNBC. When he made those comments at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in 2017, he said there was “no clear path forward” on how to deal with the job displacement. 

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