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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are pouring $4.2 million into a jobs program for residents of the Hawaiian county where they own a controversial $100 million compound.
Called the Rise to Work program, the initiative was created in 2020 for residents of the county of Kauai who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. But the program was funded by the initial economic stimulus bill last year and the funding expired this past December. Now, the program is being revived thanks to Zuckerberg and Chan’s donation.
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a statement about the funding that he had shared with the Chan Zuckerberg team how successful the previous iteration of the program had been, and it eventually led to a donation from the couple.
“Through Priscilla’s and Mark’s generous donation of $4.2 million to the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Rise to Work program lives again — offering purpose and hope to people who are struggling,” Kawakami said.
Applications for the program opened on Monday. The program can support up to 400 workers — those who are selected will be placed in temporary jobs and will receive weekly pay and free health insurance. The program also helps local businesses, the county says, because it allows them to increase capacity without adding to their payroll costs.
“Our family cares deeply about Kauai, and we are pleased to support this valuable program that has far-reaching positive effects in a community we love,” Chan said in a statement.
Zuckerberg and Chan have been residents of Kauai since 2014, when they purchased a 750-acre compound on Kauai’s North Shore. They paid a reported $100 million for two separate properties: a 357-acre former sugarcane plantation called Kahu’aina Plantation, and a 393-acre parcel called Pila’a Beach.
While the couple and their two daughters are typically based in Palo Alto, California, near Facebook’s headquarters, it appears they’ve been spending time at their Hawaii home throughout the pandemic. They were seen on the island in June — government officials confirmed the family followed the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine at the time — and Zuckerberg was spotted in July riding a $12,000 electric surfboard while covered in sunscreen. He was photographed again in December, albeit this time with less visible sunscreen.
In April, Zuckerberg and Chan committed $1 million to Kauai to help the region battle the coronavirus.
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But the couple’s presence on the island has been controversial in the past. In 2016, Zuckerberg angered neighbors by constructing a 6-foot wall around his property with the intention of reducing “highway and road noise.”
One year later, Zuckerberg filed suit against Hawaiian families who had legal-ownership claims on parcels of land within his property. Zuckerberg said at the time that he filed the suit in order to “make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too,” but the move prompted backlash from residents who described the move as “neocolonialism.”
Zuckerberg later dropped the suit, saying that he and Chan wanted to “make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.” The parcels were later auctioned off, with three out of four being sold to a bidder who was reportedly backed by Zuckerberg.
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