New York City is offering to hire out-of-work Uber and Lyft drivers, and it’s even promising to reimburse them for their driving expenses. The appeal comes at a time when many drivers are seeing their earnings dry up amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In an email, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said it is seeking drivers “to help the City of New York with important work related to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The work would include delivering food to homebound senior citizens. The TLC warns that, initially, the need for drivers will be small, but it could increase as more residents request meal delivery services. The agency is offering a $15-an-hour wage, plus reimbursements for gas mileage and tolls. Drivers will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“The World is changing around us and many of you are without work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the TLC says. “You are a top priority for the TLC and we recognize that you are among the hardest hit by this public health crisis.”
Like most shared transportation services, Uber has seen a precipitous drop in ridership as a result of the pandemic. The company’s gross bookings in Seattle, a city hit hard by the novel coronavirus, is down by 60 to 70 percent, and Uber is assuming similar declines in other big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.
The company suspended its carpooling service, UberPool, in most major markets and is providing financial assistance for drivers who have contracted COVID-19 or who have had their accounts suspended or been told to quarantine by public health officials. Yesterday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent a direct appeal to the White House for the inclusion of gig workers and ride-hail drivers in any economic stimulus package to come out of Congress.
New York City-based driver groups praised the TLC for its offer, noting that the city’s for-hire vehicle drivers have seen their earnings plummet amid the pandemic. “Drivers are ready to step up to help the city in this time of great need,” Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, said in a statement. “We are thankful that the city sees the value in this workforce and appreciate the Commissioner’s hard work to make DeliveryTLC a reality.”