Just a small town conservative accountant, Jeff Vickery loves to hunt, talk politics, and drink sweet tea.
A Grave Time to End Financial Support for People Impacted by Covid-19
As of August 27, 2021, Uber is no longer taking applications for their Covid-19 financial assistance policy. This comes at a tough time as Covid-19 cases across the world are surging and reaching all-time highs for hospitalizations in some areas. In the southern states of the United States, some hospitals are sending patients to other hospitals for treatment because they are already at their ICU capacity. Furthermore, the United States has ended their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Though demand for jobs is still high, this move could likely increase the spread of the virus as more people come off of unemployment and into the workforce.
Uber drivers are left with no option to earn an income if they are to fall ill with Covid-19. Some of these drivers earn less than minimum wage after expenses and are already living paycheck to paycheck. Uber drivers are not employees of Uber so they are not eligible for normal state-sponsored unemployment benefits due to their classification as independent contractors. Uber did not immediately respond to my request to comment.
Covid-19 Transmission Map
Infections Are Rising Among the Vaccinated
This new Delta variant has put more Uber drivers at risk for being infected with Covid-19, even if they are vaccinated. In the state of Massachusetts 4,415 new cases for the vaccinated were confirmed for the day of 9/7/2021. 18 new deaths were confirmed among the vaccinated as well. Many Uber drivers come in close contact with around 30-40 new strangers a day. This puts them at a higher risk of infection. Their air conditioning systems have to remain on full blast due to the hot summer heat, circulating germs and aerosols around their vehicles. Many riders now refuse to wear a mask due to relaxed rules across the globe - especially in the United States. Drivers are afraid to report the riders for not wearing a mask because they may lose business or get poor ratings.
Driver Pay Remains Stagnant While Costs Increase
Fuel prices and the cost of living is increasing across the world. Lumber, steel, and many other building materials are no longer affordable for most. This inflation has caused rents and the price of real estate to increase drastically. However, Uber drivers' mileage and time rates remain the same in most areas. Some drivers report earnings even less than they earned before the onset of the pandemic. Uber drivers have no way to set their own prices despite being classified as independent contractors. Uber executives on the other hand, get richer and richer. Many riders report higher ride prices.
Lyft Still Pays Drivers to Stay at Home When They are Sick
Though Uber has suspended their Covid-19 financial assistance for drivers that are infected with the virus, Lyft, Uber's core competitor, has left their financial assistance program intact. Their program is available to any driver that has driven more than 5 hours per week on average within a rolling 30-day history. This may make drivers want to reconsider which platform they decide to drive for until the surge in cases has ended. Their mileage and time rates are similar to Uber's but drivers may report higher earnings with Uber due to long-pickup fees and surge bonuses.
The Cost of Ending Financial Assistance
Ending this financial assistance could possibly result in negative consequences for Uber. Uber drivers with mild symptoms may now continue to drive while infected with Covid-19. This may result in them spreading the virus to passengers who later spread it to others. If passengers are able to prove that the drivers were negligent, lawsuits could be brought against Uber which could prove to be costly. Though their policy may state that they can't be liable for this kind of situation, many courts have still held Uber liable in the past for things that passengers had agreed to not hold Uber responsible for that were expressed in Uber's terms and conditions.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jeff Vickery