Facebook is one of the few companies that says it’s staffing up amid the coronavirus crisis, which has already led to an unprecedented 10 million U.S. unemployment claims over a two-week span in March.
The social-media giant plans to hire 10,000 additional workers for its product and engineering teams by the end of 2020, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview Thursday with CNBC. That would represent a 22% increase over the company’s headcount of 44,942 as of the end of 2019.
“Our hiring is keeping at a very, very aggressive clip,” Sandberg said.
Among the areas Facebook is focusing on, the company is dedicating more staff to monitor user posts for signs of mental-health issues including self-harm or suicide during the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last month.
Also Thursday, Facebook unveiled new details about initiatives to help small businesses — a critical source of ad revenue for the company — including how it will distribute $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to companies with 2-50 employees that have been affected by the crisis.
“The COVID-19 pan,demic has hit small businesses everywhere,” Sandberg wrote in an April 2 post on Facebook. “Suddenly and, through no fault of their own, many simply can’t do business, and for others it has become much, much harder because customers are doing the right thing and staying at home.”
In the U.S., Facebook said, it is working with small-and-midsize biz online community startup Ureeka to distribute $40 million of economic assistance to 10,000 small-business owners starting with the 34 locations where the company has operations in the country.
Facebook will start accepting applications for the program in the U.S. next week. Local businesses can visit facebook.com/business/boost/grants to see eligibility requirements and sign up to get notified when the application process is opened in their area.
In addition, Facebook is rolling out a program to promote gift cards that users can purchase from local restaurants and businesses, starting this week in the U.S. The company said Instagram also is working on offering gift cards.
Furthermore, Facebook is now letting small business owners create a personal fundraising campaign to solicit contributions from patrons, and has added features that let businesses announce temporary service changes on their Facebook Page and in searches.
While Facebook itself is projected to take a multibillion-dollar revenue hit because of COVID-19, the company is still expected to be profitable in 2020. It also has zero debt and reported $54.9 billion in cash and equivalents as of Dec. 31, 2019.
The coronavirus outbreak has given Facebook opportunities to burnish its corporate image, after a backlash against the tech company in the past few years. Facebook says it’s stepped up efforts to fight COVID-19 misinformation across all of its apps and is promoting authoritative info and updates about the pandemic. The company also has pledged an additional $100 million in assistance for local news organizations around the world.