Relief for gig workers in the time of COVID-19

Many gig workers are grappling with the significant personal and financial impacts of the coronavirus. Here’s what they can do right now.

As COVID-19 or novel coronavirus has spread, businesses have closed, and people have sheltered in place with or without a mandate. The recently rampant demand for gig economy work, like that of ride-share drivers and food delivery services, has consequently fallen dramatically. 

The government has deemed rideshare and food delivery services as essential workers. And while this has positive implications for many people’s bank accounts, there are health risks. Workers face the possibility of becoming infected, as well as infecting others. It’s a very serious consideration—put your health at risk or put your livelihood at risk?

It will be a while before we know the true impact these times will have on both our health and our financial realities. But what we do know is that we need to help each other. Nothing is going to bring our economy to its pre-COVID-19 state right now. But there are emerging resources meant to help gig workers get through these times.

Here is a short list of resources you may find helpful.

Find out about your possible unemployment benefits. 

Gig economy workers are treated by the IRS as “self-employed“; they receive 1099 tax forms from their employers and don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. However, under the recently-implemented federal CARES Act, self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, and gig and low-wage workers may receive unemployment insurance. This is a temporary measure covering a set eligibility amount in 2020 but, as yet, nothing beyond.

Here’s a bit more from a Stroock law firm analysis (warning, lawyer-speak ahead…)

“Generally, the weekly amount of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is the applicable state weekly benefit amount, which cannot be less than the minimum amount available under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, plus the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment of $600, discussed above, and any applicable increases.”

In plainer English, you should be eligible for the state’s standard amount based on your income, plus $600. But…with that said, you should check your state’s unemployment department for more specific information.

Check for policy updates made within your gig company.

Leading gig economy companies have instituted policy updates as part of their response to the pandemic.

  • Postmates launched their Fleet Relief Fund to help cover medical expenses related to COVID-19, regardless of diagnosis. Additionally, members of the fleet who receive a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 may be eligible to access additional funds to offset up to 2-weeks of lost income while they recover. This also applies those required to self-quarantine.
  • Uber is providing two-weeks of paid sick leave to any driver or delivery person diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been asked to self-isolate by a public health authority.
  • Lyft is providing funds to qualifying drivers—based on their previous activity on the Lyft platform—if they’re diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency.
  • Wonolo is helping its workers by expanding their Flex Time Off (FTO) policy, paying those who must quarantine for 14 days, and excusing late withdrawls for workers whose schedules have changed due to illness.
  • Instacart’s part-time employees or full-service shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19, or those put in mandatory quarantine, are able to receive up to 14 days of pay.
  • DoorDash is providing up to two weeks of assistance to Dashers and Caviar couriers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are subject to quarantine at the direction of public health officials.

Look into The Gig Workers Collective’s “mutual aid tool”.

The mutual aid tool enables workers to connect with each other. The Collective says they work together to gather resources, help run errands, or simply provide emotional support during this time. The tool employs the use of a Google Form; questions asked are intended to give the Collective information about gig workers’ specific needs, where they’re located, and more.

The Gig Workers Collective has also compiled a state-by-state list of resources for workers regarding COVID-19. Due to the assumed trajectory of the virus, the Collective is urging workers to seek out resources immediately.

How can we help? We’re listening.

The above are suggestions. We understand that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving quickly. Things will continue to feel largely unknown well into the future, but we’ll be here to help along the way.

Please reach out to us via the social buttons below if you have a question, concern, or simply want to talk. We’re in this together.