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Google aims to donate more than 2 million face masks to the CDC

It’s also offering free ads to NGOs and small businesses

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says that Google will work with a partner company, Magid Glove & Safety, to produce and donate “2-3 million face masks in the coming weeks,” according to a blog post. Once produced, Google will donate them to the CDC Foundation.

The face masks are part of a larger set of initiatives Google is taking to donate both money and services to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It is granting over $250 million in “ad grants” to NGOs like the World Health Organization and “more than 100 government agencies globally.” Google also said that employees from various Alphabet divisions will be offering “engineering, supply chain and heathcare expertise” to PPE manufacturers to help them make and distribute ventilators.

It’s also creating a “$200 million investment fund” that it intends to set aside for loans that will go to small businesses. A Google spokesperson tells The Verge that “In the US, Google will provide low-interest loans to small businesses through Opportunity Fund Network and other community development financial institutions (“CDFIs”).”

Google is also giving away Google ad credits to small and medium businesses that it says will amount to $340 million that “can be used at any point until the end of 2020.” Ad budgets are often the first thing to go when a business is under stress, so the grants will likely help.

Finally, there are various other smaller efforts, like a $10,000 match for employee donations and Google Cloud credits for academic institutions.

The move comes just after Apple released an app and website devoted to providing COVID-19 and coronavirus information, including a screener quiz. One thing Google is not doing is updating its informational COVID-19 site to include screener questions or directions to local testing facilities.

Google, of course, was at the center of a week-long controversy over whether it would launch a website that would live up to President Donald Trump’s original promise on March 13th. He had said that Google’s site would allow you to answer screener questions and then be directed to a local drive-through testing facility. That was not true and is not true today.

After a delay, Google launched an informational site on March 21st, but it did not have a screener quiz or a way to find testing. Instead, it linked to general coronavirus information and local state resources. Google’s sister company, Verily, did launch a site that hewed a little closer to the original promise, but it was limited to the Bay Area and was filled up so quickly that it stopped offering services within 24 hours of its launch. It has since expanded to Riverside and Sacramento counties.