Uber is ramping up its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, pledging 10 million free rides and food deliveries for health care workers, senior citizens, and others affected by the outbreak.
Uber is already providing free rides and food deliveries to NHS workers fighting the virus in the UK. Now the company is looking to expand this offer globally. Uber says that “any organization, healthcare provider, or governmental entity is eligible,” though it is still working through a lot of interested parties. A spokesperson said the company is already talking with local food banks about free rides and deliveries.
Uber is “working to distribute these meals and rides at scale in the coming months and tailor the offering based on the most pressing, local needs,” a spokesperson said. “And we’re covering the costs associated with delivering food, meals and rides: including free Eats meals, the cost of the ride or delivery of food from a food bank, payments to the drivers and couriers, etc.”
Hospitals, clinics, senior centers, and others interested in signing up their workers for free rides or food deliveries would need to email Uber at email@example.com.
The announcement comes as 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 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 — though some drivers have run into problems applying for aid from the ride-hailing company.
With people being told to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel, many Uber drivers are struggling to earn money. The $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law last week by President Trump offers jobless benefits, like unemployment insurance, to previously ineligible groups, like gig workers.