Gig workers are getting slammed by this pandemic

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Across the country, millions of Americans are facing what is being considered the worst financial (not including health) crisis of their lifetime. After a four-year bull market and record low unemployment, now many are worrying as to how they will be able to pay their rent, provide for their families, and a whole list of other stresses brought about primarily by factors outside of their control.

Because of stay-at-home orders across the country, millions of Americans are either furloughed or have been simply let go if their jobs are considered non-essential. Even though our digital age has provided many with the option of teleworking from home, pay cuts and being cut off from other forms of income have made it so very few can in fact make it day to day unscathed.

Now, our current times bring about another problem for working Americans- that being what is to happen to the many who have to take up side hustles within the ‘gig economy’ to either supplement their income or depend on ride-sharing services entirely. As of now, things aren’t looking too positive.

According to a recent article from NPR, because companies such as Instacart, Uber, and Lyft classify their people as independent contractors, many will be left without any benefits that part-time or full-time employees get to take advantage of. The article points at that the “firms generally do not provide paid sick leave or other employee benefits” whatsoever.

“Now, however, that’s changing” the article explains. “The nature of the work that Instacart shoppers, Uber and Lyft drivers and other gig workers do puts them in close contact with strangers. They are, in essence, on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and some of them are getting sick.” Thankfully though, there might be some good news.

Ridesharing drivers can now apply for unemployment benefits, which are now available to gig workers under a law Congress passed last month. There are concerns, however, that states cannot process those claims quickly. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has called on the U.S. Labor Department to issue detailed guidance as quickly as possible.” But quickly might not come quickly enough.

According to information provided to Wired.com from the Department of Labor, there is no way to guarantee speedy results in the midst of this historically chaotic time. “Officials in state unemployment officers are scrambling to determine who’s eligible for what benefits, and how to get money to them. Those offices, wading through an unprecedented 10 million claims filed in the past two weeks, only received instructions from the US Labor Department on Sunday on handling gig worker applications. A spokesperson for the US Labor Department said that because most independent contractors do not usually qualify for unemployment insurance, they would not need to file a claim with the states before applying for pandemic relief.”

As of publishing, American citizens will be receiving relief checks of around $1,200, but those checks might not make it to everyone until as late as September.