Bezos said Jones and Andres were free to do “whatever they wanted” with the money.
“They can give everything to their own charity,” Bezos said at a press conference after his trip to space. “Or they can share the wealth. It’s up to them to decide. “
The money, Bezos said, was tied to a “surprise” philanthropic initiative he wanted to announce, called the Courage and Civility Award.
The award aims to honor those who have “shown courage” and tried to be a unifier in a divisive world, Bezos added.
Jones, accepting the award, said “sometimes dreams come true”.
“You bet on me and I appreciate it,” Jones told Bezos, later adding that it was money for him to “give to others who have a similar mind.”
Andrés, who has gone out of his way to feed those in need around the world, said the prize itself “cannot feed the world on its own.”
“But,” added Andrés, “this is the start of a new chapter for us. “
Anderson Cooper, who featured CNN’s special coverage on Tuesday, said on air after Bezos announced the award that it was “a pretty big surprise.”
“None of us knew anything about it,” Cooper said.
Bezos’ philanthropic initiative comes as he and other billionaires such as Virgin Galactic investor Richard Branson come under fire for spending their wealth on space tourism. Bezos has previously been criticized for not contributing more to philanthropy, but has donated billions of dollars in recent years to causes such as climate change and food banks.
Critics have said the richest people in the world should be working to improve conditions for people here on Earth, instead of flying into space. Bezos and proponents of space programs, however, countered that both are possible.
“Well, I say they are mostly right. We have to do both, ”he said Monday in an interview with CNN. “You know, we have a lot of problems here and now on Earth and we have to work on it, and we always have to look to the future. We’ve always done it as a species, as a civilization. We need to. both. “